Actions

Work Header

Once More

Chapter Text

Terezi- 1F TH1S HUM4N CL41M3D TH4T SH3 OWN3D M3, SH3 WOULD B3 S3NT TO TH3 SL4MM3R. >:]

O.D.D.- That's right! If I claimed to own you, I'd get a lot of heat and hatred. You belong to Andrew Hussie. (´⊙ω⊙`)

Terezi- W41T, 1 DON'T R3C4LL B3LONG1NG TO 4NYON3 1N TH3 F1RST PL4C3. >:[

O.D.D.- (<_< ; )

Terezi- OK4Y, TH1NGS JUST GOT W31RD. 1'M L34V1NG. >:/

O.D.D.- Um....bye....? (O_O)

Terezi- L4T3R, OR4NG3S. >:]

O.D.D.- ....What a...peculiar nickname. Anyways, I don't own Homestuck and its characters--Hussie does. d(^_^o)

Chapter Text

==> [S] GAME OVER.

The smell of burning fire fills your nose.  You hear the wind rush by your ears.  You feel sand brush against your hands and face, including your warm tears; it stings when it touches your cuts. You can taste the disgusting bitterness of blood in your mouth. The black sky above you glows slightly with the mirage of colors that flash between the cracks. 

...

You see....

You see your friends....

....

They're not breathing.

Jade Harely, your biological sister...

Her white dog ears are no longer twitching.

Rose Lalonde, your therapist of sorts and best friend...

Her knowing smile is gone from her lips.

Dave Strider, your best bro and once-in-a-while a**hole...

His ridiculous ranting and rapping has ceased...

Your troll friends' blood is splattered on the ground. The colors of candy-red, jade, teal, cerulean and purple mix into the sand.  It would look like an interesting, abstract painting if you hadn't known what exactly the paint was.  

And the ghost army was gone......every single ghost.  You had gotten to know every single one of them and now they're just ashes in the air--never to come back to tell you their stories, their adventures, good deeds, and faults. 

The Sprites were also gone. Davepetasprite^2 and Jasprosesprite^2 disintegrated into lights when they died.  You're gonna miss Davepetasprite^2's little 'Meow meow, motherf**kers'.  And Jasprosesprite^2's cat puns.

Your other human friends were also killed in battle. Jake English. Roxy Lalonde. Jane Crocker. Dirk Strider.  Jake was the first to go along with Dirk.  Jane went next.  Roxy was last and it was all just so f**ked up.  Jake won't be able to tell his adventures anymore.  Dirk won't have any rap battles with Dave.  Jane won't be able to do her baking ever again. And Roxy won't ever be her cool self again.

Everyone was f**king gone.

...

Your name is John Egbert... and you and your friends have lost the game.

"HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

Your blue eyes snap up in slight surprise and fear. Lord English.  A green, cherub with a skull for a face.  His eyes were 8-balls.  White pants adorned his legs and lime-green suspenders held them up.  He towers over you; he was nearly five times your height.  

The cherub had a sister. Read: had. Once Lord English found that his sister, Calliope, was alive, he killed her on the spot. Her lime-colored blood stained the ground.  F**k you'll miss Callie.  She was always so kind, and--

You can't think about that right now.  Right now, Lord English is standing in front of you.  You straighten your back as much as possible, wiping any pain off of your face.  Lord English gazes down at you mockingly; his sharp, golden tooth glinted in the dim lighting of the area.

"ARE YOU REALLY THE ONES THAT WERE MEANT TO STOP ME? PATHETIC." You support yourself on the hilt of your blue hammer, the Warhammer of Zillyhoo; your glasses were cracked, but you do your best glare of defiance through them. Lord English sneered; his voice thundered out in the clearing. "AND YOU'RE STILL TRYING TO STOP ME.  YOUR DEATH WILL BE HEROIC INDEED, BUT IT WILL BE IN VAIN.  I SEEK THE DESTRUCTION OF THIS UNIVERSE, AND I AM OMNIPOTENT.  WHAT CAN YOU POSSIBLY DO TO STOP ME, JOHN EGBERT?"

You pause, a wheeze going past your clenched teeth. You're already losing feeling in your left arm and leg. Yet you took a step forward and dragged your hammer with you through the sand; your blue eyes glowed slightly. A whisper of wind drifts by your ears.  You taste iron in your mouth and it feels like the slightest push will send you falling into a heap of broken bones and blood. Lord English chuckled roughly.

"BRAVE.  BRAVE...BUT FOOLISH." The cherub raised a large hand up, prepared to strike you. You grip your hammer tightly in your right hand. Lord English brought his hand down.

Slash!

Your blue eyes widen in shock at the familiar Welsh sword stabbed into Lord English's leg, causing the cherub's attack to falter.  Lord English merely shakes his leg and the blade dislodges itself, landing in the sand a distance away. Dave was already struck down, wasn't he!?  But then--!

"G-God...d**n it...E-Egbderp..." A very familiar voice rasps out into the clearing.

Your breath freezes in your throat and you dart your gaze to the side and widen your eyes as a certain ash-blonde attempts to stand up, grabbing his blade in the sand and using it as a crutch.  Holy f**k!  You thought he stopped breathing half an hour ago!  And he was standing!?

"DAVE!" Please just lie down!  Pretend that you're still dead!  Please, don't do this!

Lord English turned his head to look at the Knight of Time; he grinned maliciously.  Oh God no.  Please, Dave, just run away.  He should just forget about you and just go.  Find some place safE, GOD D**N IT!

"OH?" Lord English rumbles, an amused smirk on his lips. "HOW AMUSING..."

Dave coughs up some blood as he clutches his stomach; his bright, red eyes were visible as he looks at you. The aviators you got him for his birthday had long been destroyed in the battle against Lord English. The ash-blonde quirked a shaky smirk at you.

"Th-Thought I was...dead, J-John?" He rasps out again.

You give an anguished look towards Dave.  You want to smile back and assure him that everything's alright--but Lord English was suddenly towering over Dave. You knew your best bro was a strong fighter, but he looked so d**n fragile at the moment. Dave sends a sneer at Lord English, brushing his cape back when it nearly gets tangled with his legs.

"P-Picking...on my...best bro?" Dave laughs dryly as he leans against his sword. "H-Heh....n-not gonna...f-f**king happen, pal."

Lord English chuckled darkly.  He inclines his head, studying Dave's barely-standing form.  The cherub then scoffs, throwing his head back to laugh loudly.  You wince at the sound, tensing as you held your hammer tightly.  And then Lord English finally settles down, a final chuckle falling from his lips.

"WITH THE STATE YOU'RE IN? I THINK NOT." Lord English rumbles after his bout of laughter.

The cherub sent a punch at Dave's gut--but a flash of white light blasted Lord English in the stomach. You widen your eyes further before turning your gaze to the source of the shot.

Rose. Rose is standing there. The Seer of Light has one of her wands raised at Lord English; blood dribbles sluggishly from her lips to her chin.  Oh my God, you thought she had died hours ago...with Kanaya at her side.  You swallow harshly and blink back tears.

"Rose..." F**king he**, just pretend to be dead, please.

You can tell that she can barely stand. You bet she's using all of her energy to simply stand there. F**k, f**k, f**k. Rose coughs again and you watch with horrified eyes as more red blood slips from her mouth, dripping onto the yellow Light symbol on her chest.

"I...second your th-thoughts....Dave...."

Lord English barks out a harsh laugh while Dave quickly stumbles over to help keep Rose upright when she staggers slightly from where she stands. Once Dave is there, Rose exhales shakily as she puts some of her weight against Dave.  Your best bro immedately steadies her, looking much stronger than the Seer of Light.

"WHAT'S THIS!? YOU LITTLE INSECTS ARE COMING BACK FROM THE DEAD? I HAD THOUGHT FOR SURE YOU ALL DIED FROM YOUR SILLY, HEROIC DEATHS." The green beast lifted a clawed hand up to crush the ash-blonde siblings.

You widen your eyes at this. No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!  Not your best friends.  Never your best friends.  Your hammer slips from your grasp as you quickly raise your hands up, eyes wide and desperate. You set up a barrier of Breath around Dave and Rose to protect them, kicking up some golden sand. Green claws clash with the blue wind and you grit your teeth when your barrier wavers slightly, but you narrow your gaze, determined to protect your friends. The barrier stands and your friends are safe; you breathe a shaky sigh of relief. Lord English grunted at the barrier and sent a glare over at you.

"NOW YOU'RE JUST BEING A NUISANCE, JOHN EGBERT." Lord English grits out.

Your heart drops to your stomach, and you think...'This is it'.  This was apparently how far you'll go in the battle. The cherub unhinged his jaw slightly; you see a set of pool balls in his mouth. Sweat and blood rolls down the side of your face when the attack was aimed at you. You send an apologetic look at Dave and Rose, who were sending you worried looks. You suppose...you wouldn't mind dying if it meant saving the last of your friends from death.

Sorry Dave, Rose.

You prepare for the feeling of pool balls shooting through y--

Suddenly, a green glow surrounds you. You find yourself teleported next to your biological sister, the Witch of Space, who was also alive--just barely. She smiles weakly at you as she also teleported Dave and Rose next to you.  Holy sh**...Jade was alive too? But one glance to her stomach...and you see that there's too much f**king blood.

It's too late.

"J-John....I'm s-sorry...."

Jade slumps against your shoulder; you ignored the fact that her broken, round glasses dug into your skin slightly. You held her tightly to your chest, feeling her labored breathing. She must've used the last bit of strength she had to save Dave, Rose and you. Sh**. Why did this have to happen? You thought the game was won when you gave a new home for the Genesis Frog. But the moment you touched the doorknob of the white house on the lily pad, you were immediately sent here to this f***ing desert.

Jade presses a cold, shaky hand to your cheek; her eyes were still as green as ever as you looked at them. She then drops her hand down, leaving a slight smudge of blood on your cheek. But yet again, you didn't give a sh**. You lift your gaze to look at Lord English, who made gagging noises.

"OH, SO SWEET. IT MAKES ME F**KING SICK." Lord English practically spat in your direction.

You grit your teeth, still cradling Jade close to you--and then idea comes to you.  You can still save your friends. Just give them a chance. You search through your Strifedeck and pull out Fear No Anvil. The hammer is a little heavy in your grasp, but you'll manage--you'll have to manage. Perhaps you could buy some time for your frien--

"John...stop...I-I know that l-look on your face." You turn to look at Rose, who has a sad, fond smile on her lips. "Y-You don't need t-to fight now....."

"But Rose--!" You have to do something.

"Th-There's....something e-else you need to...do..." Rose whispers.

She suddenly places a pale finger on your forehead; there was a brief glow of yellow and flinch slightly. You gasp softly in surprise when a mirage of images flashed before your eyes--it suddenly stopped. You're left a little dazed...but you manage to find the words to speak again, your eyes connecting with lavender ones again.

"R-Rose? Wh-What did you do...?"

"I sh-shared my powers w-with you." She smiled gently, blood dripping from her lips. "It's only a-a little, but...i-it'll.....help...."

Her voice grew weary and she slumped slightly onto your other shoulder. And then...there was a glow of green on your left arm. You turn your head and see Jade giggle breathlessly as the glow died down.

"N-Now you have s-some of my powers too...." More blood stains the golden sand.

You feel a light poke on your chest--above your heart. Dave was kneeling there in front of you, a small smirk on his lips as a red glow surrounded your chest area.  His red eyes still have that fire in them, that will to keep fighting.  

"Welp, John," Something small and flat was shoved into the palm of your right hand.  Dave widens his smirk before you have the chance to see what he had given you, but you think you've caught a glimpse of something red in your hand. "Be...the f**king hero y-you were....m-meant to be...."

Suddenly, the world flashes white around you. You remember seeing Lord English's enraged expression over Dave's shoulder before everything disappeared.

...

...

...

...

==> John: Wake up.

...Your blue eyes snap open. You see...a ceiling you haven't seen in a very, very, very long time. The smell of Betty Crocker brand pastries fills the air. You feel....warm...and safe....

The mattress below you feels like a dream. But you just know. You f***ing know that this is not a d**n dream. You sit up in bed abruptly and look around for a moment...before you glance to the side. You find your glasses on a nightstand beside your mattress. Yet again, you hardly recall it being there before...

You reach out shakily and grab the glasses--your glasses. You put the square glasses over your nose and blink your eyes rapidly. Cautiously, you climb out of your....bed. Your wounds are gone. You stand up on slightly shaky legs.

==> John: Look around.

You look, turning around slowly because if you do it too fast, you feel like you might just collapse on your knees in shock.  But you carefully look around, taking in every single detail of your room, finding posters of your favorite movies...your giant chest of prank tools...your computer desk.....

Holy sh**.

...

It's your room.  Everything is how you remember it being before SBURB began.  You posters were fine.  No oil stained the ground.  It wasn't constantly dark outside.  Everything was...normal.  You blink when your eyes sharply catch a calendar hanging on the wall.  You walk over and stumble slightly--your leg is not broken anymore, so you don't have to limp.

Shaking your head, you dazedly walk over to the calendar. It takes all of your willpower to not collapse on the floor when you see the date--because...that's......there's no way...?

4/13/2009.

Sh**. Sh**. Holy sh**.

==> John: Pinch yourself.

Ouch! You wince and rub your arm, feeling a bit foolish for pinching yourself, but the pain was good.  It showed that you were alive in a way...and this isn't a dream. But then....was SBURB just a dream?

Ping!

You widen your eyes. That was the familiar chime of...Pesterchum....

...

...You drag your gaze away from the wall and look at your computer.  It was on, screen glowing and system humming softly.  You blink before you cautiously walk over--you're not on the battlefield anymore.  You exhale shakily as you finally make it to your computer, pushing your computer chair out of the way for now.

You glance around the screen of your computer before blindly grasping for your mouse, which was on the desk.  Once your fingers wrap around your mouse, you drag the device around so your cursor lands on the familiar icon of Pesterchum.  With a split second of hesitation...you finally click on Pesterchum and a window pops up. Your gaze darts around the window that pops up as you look carefully at who's pestering you.  Your nerves are bunched up and your fingers twitch restlessly over the keyboard when you move both of your hands over them, prepared to respond.  You soak up the words that appear on the screen.

-- turntechGodhead [ TG ] began pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 16:13 --

TG: hey so what sort of insane loot did you rake in today

You stare at the familiar red text on the screen. You think you've forgotten how to breathe.

==> John: Breathe. You're the f***ing Heir of Breath!

You take a deep breath and let it out. You thinking about bringing the computer chair closer to you since you might fall on your a** out of shock again or something.  But you merely shake your head and take multiple calming breaths... before you answer, trying to remember the day that happened seven years ago.

EB: i got a little monsters poster, it's so awesome. i'm going to watch it again today, the applejuice scene was so funny.

TG: oh he** that is such a coincidence i just found an unopened container of apple juice in my closet it is like f***ing christmas up in here

You smile as the conversation goes on smoothly. You're unsure if everything had just been a dream up until now.  However...

TG: but who cares about this lets stop talking about it

TG: did you get the beta yet

TG: egderp

TG: yo

TG: you still there

Your stare at your screen with wide eyes. The game....it was real. SBURB--! You take a few more breaths and quickly respond.

EB: no.

EB: did you?

TG: man i got two copies already

You swallow. That's right. And then the copies would get destroyed by some apple juice....and then...

==> John: Come to a realization of where you are now.

You're in the past. Before SBURB started. Before all of the he** and sh** went down. A few images suddenly flash past your eyes and you gasp in slight alarm.

You can see that Dave was going to ask you about the beta copies--and holy f**k he's alive and breathing.  He's not bloodied up or sagging with exhaustion.  Dave Strider is alive and well. And then suddenly, the vision cuts off and your eyes burn a little.  You blink your eyes rapidly in surprise, stunned for a moment.

Ping!

The sound snaps you out of your daze.  Hesitantly, you look at your screen.

TG: is it there

TG: plz say yes

TG: maybe you can play with TT shes been pestering me all day about it

Those images from before...did you...did you just see....the future?

"I sh-shared my powers w-with you. It's only a-a little, but...i-it'll.....help...."

You think back to Rose's....last words.  Oh sh**.  The relization comes to you with sharp clarity.  

You quickly check your Strifedeck. Your hammers were all there. You look at you left arm; you a feel a strange, warm sensation near your shoulder. You cautiously roll your sleeve up and find....the white Godtier symbol for Space.

You quickly start to pull your entire shirt off and find that a familiar red gear for Time was over your heart. You then fumble around your room for a mirror and check your forehead. Once you found one, you move your left hand up to move your bangs out of the way and stare.  A yellow sun for Light was present.

You swallow. Thankfully, your bangs naturally hid the small sun symbol from sight; you let the black locks cover the middle of your forehead.  You stagger back and set down on your bed, legs a little weak.  What did all of this mean?

Ping!

You blink...and turn your gaze back to your computer.  All of this seemed so...impossible, but you were here.  And then...Dave is pestering you.  With a deep, shuddering breath, you move off of your bed and walk towards your computer.  Immediately, you soak in the red text that fills the screen.

TG: hey

TG: dude

TG: why arent you responding anymore

TG: i thought we had something special egbert

TG: now im sad

TG: youve broken my heart into tiny pieces

TG: look at these shards and tears

TG: like sh** whos gonna clean this up

EB: you're such a dork, dave. :B

TG: woah you finally responded

EB: :BBBBBB

TG: youre being weird now

TG: wtf

You stare for a while longer at the red words before a choked sob escapes your lips.  You raise a shaky hand to your mouth as you then move away from the computer, a near hysterical laugh rushing out with a wheeze from your lungs. You have another chance to save them. They're all alive right now and--and you're not gonna let this chance slide away from you.

Your name is John Egbert, and you've just gone back in time.

And it's time to kick fate in the a**.

==> John: Adjust.

Chapter Text

==> John: Process the situation--and put your shirt back on!

Your name is John Egbert.  And you've just recently went back in time.  Judging by Dave's reactions with you...he has no memory of what had happened before you went back. You wipe your eyes to get rid of the tears.  You're alone....but this is a mission you're determined to complete successfully!

Vrrroom...

You then perk up when you hear a car move in.

==> John: Check your window.

You inhale...and exhale to calm your nerves before you cautiously make your way over to the window.  Your hands find the windowsill and you look through the glass, the frame of the window casting shadows onto your face. Your gaze barrows before widening with mild surprise as you gaze out of your window.  You find a white car pulling in.

...

It's--!

It's your dad....

Dad.

Your vision starts to blur--and sh**! Right when you managed to stop crying, the tears are coming back!  But God, you haven't seen your dad since...nearly seven years ago. 

...

...God, what should you do? You hesitate for a moment, but your heart longs to feel your father’s embrace again.  Finally, you turn around quickly, nearly tripping over the edge of your bed as you stumble towards the door. You hurry out of your room and skip a few steps on your way down the stairs. And finally--finally, finally, finally--you made it to your front door.  You open the door and immediately greet your dad with a hug, wrapping your arms around his neck. Your dad seems stunned, but he catches you and returns the hug.

"Son...?" You hear.

His deep voice, roughed from the tobacco he smoked, was soothing to your ears. Oh how you've missed him. Jane's dad was similar....but he was never the same as your own dad. You lift your head from your dad’s shoulder a send a goofy bucktoothed grin at him.  You hug him tightly, but not enough to make the man uncomfortable.

"Hiya, Dad!  I missed you.  How was work?" Are you healthy, breathing, not dying--?

Dad merely blinks his cobalt eyes in surprise before smiling softly at you. F**k he looks just like how you remembered him.  Perfectly fine, breathing, smelling like shaving cream and cake--not bleeding out on a checkerboard battlefield.

"Just fine, son. I hope you've enjoyed your presents so far..."

You nod vigorously.  F**k yes, you enjoy everything that your dad has given you.  You appreciate the sh** out of it.

"Yup! But I still have to open yours!"

You think back to the giant harlequin you still have to unwrap; you cringe slightly.  You still have slight nightmares from them....

But you’ve experienced worse.

You release your hold on Dad and move to the side to let him in before remembering the Beta.  Now that you don't really...mind talking to your dad, you could just head straight over to the mail instead of disguising yourself.  Thinking back, it all sounds ridiculous and really f**king stupid.

"Sorry Dad, I gotta get something in the mail." You murmur.

Your dad raises an eyebrow before pulling the Beta into view, probably bringing it out of his wallet captchalogue deck.

"You mean this?" Dad asks while inclining his head at you, cobalt eyes searching.

You blink in surprise before grinning.  You hope your smile doesn't come out strained, but when you saw that disk...you're not sure if you wanted to curse out SBURB then and there.

"Ah! That's it!" You say with false cheer, hopefully undetected by your father.

Dad let a flicker of worry cross his face; you nearly widen your eyes at that.  He knows. And you never noticed before....

"Son....is this a safe game? There's not too much graphic violence?"

You hesitate slightly.  Should you...not play the game?  It all seems so confusing...

If you don't...you avoid destroying the world, and maybe all of the batsh** crazy stuff won't happen--and everyone would most likely die.  But if you do play....you'll get to meet all of your amazing friends.

...

F**k the world.  You'll make a new one, and you'll make sure to save your friends this time.  You settle with smiling sheepishly at your dad, running your right hand nervously through your haur.  You're risking a lot with this one action, but you need a leap of faith if you're gonna do something to save all your friends.

"There's gonna be some...but I'll make sure I see nothing too bad."

Dad lifts an eyebrow in slight surprise.  The man glances off to the side before lightly tapping your head with the envelope; he smiles with slight sadness.

"Be careful with what you watch now, son."

You nod and give one of your famous, bucktoothed grins.  You gently take the Beta from your dad’s fingertips. You thank him before running back to your living room, hefting the giant box he left for you. You flash him a wide smile.

"I'll open this upstairs! See you at dinner."

Dad watches you go with a fond smile on his lips.  When you're out of your dad’s view, you set your present and Beta down to spy on him for a bit.  You see how your dad sighs tiredly as he enters the kitchen. Dad pauses by your grandma’s picture and urn.

"Mom....I'm scared for him. Please....watch over him."

Dad then goes into the kitchen.  You feel a little stunned at that single moment.  Dad knew from the beginning....

Your thoughts swim for a moment before you shake your head and sigh.

==> John: Head back to your room.

You pick up your present and the Beta.  Balancing the present in one hand, you opened your door.  Once inside, you set your things down before closing the door behind yourself.  You look at the note left on the outside.

Champ. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. I believe in you.

You honestly can't help but chuckle sadly.  The words mean a lot more than what they did back then...

You quickly open up your present.  You smile wryly at the harlequin doll in your hands before setting it on the bed.  You then glance at the cake that was still on your nightstand.  You ended up rummaging through your prank chest and pulled out your fake arms and stuck them in the cake.

Pfft--!

Yeah, it still looked funny.

Ping!

Oh, if you remember correctly, that must be Rose this time.  You walk over to your desk, sitting on the computer chair.

==> John: Check Pesterchum.

-- tentacleTherapist [ TT ] began pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 16:26 --

TT: I understand you have recently come into possession of the beta release of "The Game of the Year", as featured in respectable periodicals such as GameBro Magazine.

You snicker slightly before responding.

EB: that's an ugly rumor.

EB: whoever told you that is a filthy liar.

EB: and you should probably stop hitting on him all the time or whatever.

TT: I can't control myself.

TT: I must have a weakness for insufferable pr**ks.

You can't help but laugh. You could practically hear Rose's sarcastic drawl....and see her black lips curve upwards with amusement.  Her lavender eyes would always twinkle with amusement and--

...

Gosh, you just miss them all...

You shake your head of your depressing thoug--WAIT!

Jade's present!

You glance towards the window, gazing at the bright blue sky outside--it would become red with falling meteors in a few minutes.  You drum your fingers on your desk for a moment, contemplating your next move.

...

Should you go get it?  Judging by the way you got li'l Liv Tyler.....

Maybe you should just leave it in your dad’s car.  After all, Peregrine Mendicant--PM--ends up mailing it to you.  You frown slightly, trying to bring the memory of your meeting with her to the front of your mind.  Perhaps you can get on better terms with her in your first meeting...

You relax and look back at your computer, hands resting back onto the keyboard.

TT: So, John, I have heard some interesting news from a little crow-boy that you've been acting strange lately.  Care to tell me?  I'm all ears.

EB: well, to be truthful, i had a little nightmare.

TT: Do you wish to confide with me about it?

EB: not really.

You then wince. You said that way too quickly. Rose will be suspicious with you for sure now...

TT: Oh?

TT: Dave's right.

TT: You're acting a bit strange.

Dave...told Rose that you were being weird? Sh**, Dave is suspicious of you? You're just gonna have to try and act as 'normal' as possible in this conversations then.

EB: what do you mean? :B

TT: The John I know usually shares his thoughts with me.  No matter how whacky.

You pause and chew on your bottom lip.  Your thoughts are kind of in a jumble.  Should you tell Rose....?

...

TT: John?  Are you still there?

You run a hand over your face before sighing.  Maybe you can settle for half truths.

EB: bluuuuuuuuuuh!

EB: okay, okay.  i'll tell you a few things.

TT: Alright.  Go on.

You smile lopsidedly at this. You can practically hear Rose gently coaxing you into telling her your problems. You take in a deep breath...and let it out shakily, fingers twitching nervously along your keyboard.

EB: so, i dreamed we had super powers and we were fighting bad guys.

TT: "We".  As in you, Dave, Jade and me?

EB: uh.

EB: yeah.

EB: and then...um...we were attacked by a giant beast.  the end.

You facepalm yourself. What kind of vague story was that!? Ugh, you want to slam your face into a wall right now. Maybe you should do that. Yeah, to knock any stupid thoughts that are swirling in your mind.

TT: Oh?  That was rather short.

TT: Hmm, well, can you describe what we looked like in your dream?

EB: everything was kinda fuzzy, so no.  i can't really describe it.

You're kind of glad you're not speaking to Rose in person. She'd be able to detect your lies so much easier that way. You ignore the uncomfortable twist in your gut for lying to your friends.

TT: I see...

TT: Perhaps this dream represents future problems.

EB: ?

TT: Possibly, your dream means, no matter how strong we get, something stronger will defeat us.

EB: no way!  we're the best! >:B

TT: You sound pretty confident.

Argh, why did you shout like that? Rose doesn't know about the future. D**n, you just got all mad about thinking about Lord English....killing you all again. You squeeze your eyes shut at this, taking in a shuddering breath before responding again.

EB: because i am.  we're all the best, rose.  but dave's a dork.

TT: Haha.  You're so cute, John.  But I do love your enthusiasm.  Your words also make me happy and more confident in myself.  Are you planning to be the President one day?

You smile wryly at this. You've managed to direct Rose's thoughts to a brighter path. You guess being goofy will make your act a little better.

EB: pffffffffffft bluuuuuurgh!

EB: too much work, rose!  plus, i would probably use the missile launch codes they had to destroy every single betty crocker industry.

TT: Brilliant.  Then the world will be free from Betty Crocker.

You laugh brightly, your stomach twisting less.  You've missed these conversations with Rose.  She always the best in therapy sessions. She helps drain the stress from you with just words alone...

TT: By the way, did you receive the beta?

EB: yep! :B

TT: Are you going to install it yet?

You look back at your room.  You still had Dave's present to open.

Also....

You need to stick your fake arms onto the armless harlequin.

==> John: Make the harlequin funnier.

Perfect.  Hehehehe, it's as funny as the first time you did it.  Now to open your present from Dave.  Thankfully, your fetch modus isn't as complicated as it was in the beginning.  You take out an old razor you've held onto throughout the journey as a...'piece' of your dad to remember him.

You use the razor to open Dave's present open.  You smile fondly at the stinky rabbit in there.  Dave's your best bro.

...

Speaking of bros......

You think back to what Dave had said to you once about his own brother.

His big brother.  All you know about him was the fact that he died fighting Jack Noir with Davesprite.  But you've also heard.....that Bro wasn't the best caretaker.

Dave wasn't actually happy with Bro.

Maybe you could....?

Wait, it's too dangerous to use your current Chumhandle; Bro would probably know who you are.  Let's try and make another account.

~~

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] began pestering timeausTestified [ TT ] at 16:34 --

WH: hey! :B

TT: Who the f**k is this?  How did you get my Chumhandle?

You wince slightly. You can just hear the passive aggressiveness in Bro's tone. You take a steadying breath before you begin to type a response before hitting send.

WH: just call me heir. 

You really have no idea what else to call yourself, so you'll just stick with your God Tier title.

WH: and i just want to talk about your little brother.

...D**n. That was too straightforward. Maybe you should've eased gently into the conversation.

TT: What?

TT: Why?  Who the f*** are you?

TT: Are you trying to hurt him?

You furrow your eyebrows at this. Bro was being...protective? You're not that sure. You decide to just type the question you wanted to say.

WH: do you love your little brother?

TT: What kind of question is that?

Yeah. He's kinda right. What kind of f**king question is that? A stranger out of the blue is asking Bro Strider if he loves his little brother. You sigh exasperatedly and pinch the bringe of your nose, pushing your glasses up slightly. With another sigh, slow and deep, you lift your head up and put your glasses back in place when you hear a response.

TT: I love the li'l man.  He's a noob, but he'll grow up.

You blink your eyes rapidly in surprise before narrowing them. Dave said...Bro was rather...abusive. But...could it all have been just an act? You sense that some bigger power has a play in this...

WH: what if i killed him?

You feel like you're using a stick to poke a nuclear bomb, but you want some sort of reaction from Bro. While threatening Dave's life leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you want to see if Bro isn't all that he seems to be.

TT: Then you're f***ing dead, you little piece of sh**.

You incline your head at this, chewing on your bottom lip nervously. You can't tell if that's a good response or not. You sigh softly...thinking about what you should say next. With a grimace, you finally settle on something. This will be a d**k move, but you're pushing for answers. You want to see if you can fix Dave's relationship with his brother.

WH: really?  i heard you abuse him yourself.

TT: ...

WH: silence?

WH: wow.

Ugh, you sound like an a**hole.

TT: Just who the f*** are you?

You still your hands for a moment, contemplating. Carefully you raise a hand to your forehead and shut your eyes. You concentrate, trying to use your Light powers to see.

==> John: Practice using the small amount of Seer powers you have.

A few images flash behind your eyelids, but you see Bro in one of them.  You quickly focus and find that you're looking into Bro's room. It's full of a lot of clutter, but your eyes then focus on Bro. D**n, he looks pissed.  And looks a lot more like Dirk when his hat is off.

...

Technically, they're both the same person.  Wow, you feel dumb.  Anyways, Bro looks pretty pissed, frustrated.....and maybe worried?  It doesn't look like he's worried for himself though. He's gazing at the screen of his computer, knuckles a little white on the desk as they're both fisted tightly.

Maybe he's worried for Dave.

You open your eyes, then warmth dying out beneath your eyelids. With a shaky sigh, you return to the conversation.

WH: so?  you abuse him then?

TT: Okay, I don't know who the f*** you are, but get this.

TT: Dave's gonna kick your a** before you kick his. 

You straighten your back in surprise at this, leaning forward towards your computer. Sh**, do you have a chance in fixing Dave and Bro's brotherly relationship? Your heart pounds nervously within your chest as you read with bated breath.

TT: I may have abused him, and he'll hate me. 

TT: But I don't give a d**n.  That way he can just forget about me if I die.  And he'll be a bada** motherf***er.

...

......

D**n. You're grinning like a maniac now, aren't you? F**k, you feel happy. If what Bro is saying is true, then you might be able to do something to fix the relationship. Of course, it won't erase 13 years of...trauma, but you can work on it. There's hope for helping the Strider Bros out.

With a soft sigh...you then have no f**king idea on how to back out of this conversation. You scratch your head nervously before doing what is best in these kinds of situations.

==> John: Abscond!

WH: okay.  bye. :P

WH: and dave actually loves you and respects you as his big brother. 

WH: you should  try and return the love.  even if you were to die, you'll make him happy.

TT: Wha

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] blocked timeausTestified [ TT ] --

You lean away from your computer with a sigh. That was a messy abscond, but you're happy. Your shoulders slouch with some relief. Bro wasn't bad after all.  Should you tell Dave about this?

....

You shake your head slowly. No, that would rush things and end up f**king things up. In order to fix this, you'll have to go slow. Maybe you can hint at it...

Oops!  You haven't responded to Rose for a while.

==> John: Respond to Rose.

TT: John, where have you been?

EB: sorry!  i was doing some important things.

EB: i'll download the beta now. :B

You look at the Beta envelope on your bed.  You reach your left hand toward it.  There's a brief glow of green around your fingertips and the envelope before the disc suddenly appeared in his hand.  You blink in surprise and grin slightly.

Jade's powers are so f***ing awesome.

You set up the Beta and wait for your computer to load.  In the meantime, you decide to pester Dave. Maybe you can begin your hinting here. Also, you remind yourself to be careful. Since Dave was the one who alerted Rose of your 'weird' behavior, you better but on your best 'goofy nerd' act.

-- ectoBiologist [ EB ] began pestering turntechGodhead [ TG ] at 16:46 --

EB: daaaaaaaaaavvveeeee!

TG: woah egbert

EB: the bunny is so awesome!  i love it! :B

TG: glad you do

TG: i nearly had to sell my soul for it

TG: you better appreciate the sh** out of that bunny

You grin to yourself.....before biting your lip into a grimace. Alright...here it goes. You're gonna try and see if you could start fixing the brotherly relationship now. You remind yourself to be as careful as possible. You don't want to f**k things up.

TG: you already are egbutt

You smile fondly at the playful jibe, but your smile fades when you become serious. This was a delicate matter--you didn't want to f**k things up.

EB: so. your bro. what's he like?

You press you fingers to your forehead--where your Light tattoo is--again to see if you can catch Dave's reaction.  Images flow through your head like a rippling pond that had recently gotten a heavy stone thrown into the center of it. However, your eyes catch an image and you focus on it.

...

The ash-blonde seems shocked.  You hope that's a good start and you haven't f**ked things up just yet. You open your eyes to see his response.

TG: hes cool

You wince slightly at this response. You have a feeling that Dave is straining a bit to stay calm and collected to say this.

TG: like hes all bada** and all that sh**

TG: he can kick my a** in all of our strifes

You feel...awful now when you think back to your previous life. You were so oblivious to your best bro's uncomfortableness in talking about Bro. You had always said that Bro sounded cool and stuff, but that must've made Dave feel like a knife was being twisted into his back. You grit your teeth and sigh. You return to typing a response.

EB: do you love him in a brotherly way?

TG: dude what brought this on

TG: why are you being so weird lately

D**n. So much for being goofy and nerdy. This topic is so serious that you can't help but act 'weirdly' with Dave. But you push forward. You want to try and fix the Strider Bros' realtionship between each other.

EB: can't a bro be concerned for his bro?

TG: dude everythings fine seriously

TG: oh hold on for a sec

Dave stops responding to you.  You grow worried and lift your hand to your forehead again, images flowing past your eyes once more. You try and use your Light powers aga--

Oh what the he**!?

Bro's in Dave's room.  You can barely hear their voices....but....

Dave looks surprised and then....

...

....

....Bro ruffles his hair.

"Just so you know, li'l man, I'm always proud of you, 'kay?" Bro murmurs softly.

You yourself is also stunned.  You never thought Bro would take your...advice or anything.

Bro quickly absconds Dave's room and you stop using your Light powers.  You slowly drop your hand from your forehead, feeling a little...hopeful? Yeah. You're feeling hopeful because maybe Bro is starting to reach out to Dave? You wonder what exactly it was that you said changed Bro's way of thinking. Dave responds to you after a few seconds of stunned silence.

TG: john you f***er

EB: what?

TG: are you some sort of psychic

TG: bro just did a weird thing and gtfo of my room

EB: what weird thing?

TG: he ruffled my hair

EB: so?  he's your brother, right?  big bros do those kinds of things.

TG: but hes supposed to be a cold a**hole

TG: like wtf

TG: usually hed throw a smuppet at me and abscond

TG: but a ruffle to the head

TG: my brain just f***in imploded

You scratch your head this and chuckle awkwardly before typing a response. You really hope that's a somewhat of a good response...

EB: maybe he's trying to reach out to you.

TG: but why now

TG: he never did those kinds of thing when i was little

TG: he** he threw me like a football when i was a god d**n infant

You wince at this. Yeah, things won't be exactly easy to fix. You're not that big of a miracle worker--you can't instantly erase 13 years of trauma.

EB: ...

You smile gently, as if you were talking to Dave right now--face-to-face. You want Dave to know that he can try and fix the relationship too.

EB: you can at least try though.

EB: i'm trying to reach out to my own guardian too.

TG: your dad

TG: hes already cool but my bros an a**

TG: i just

TG: ugh

TG: john

TG: bro is just this elusive dude i cant understand

TG: i dont know about this

EB: are you scared?

TG: no im not

EB: i won't tease you for it.  i'm just saying it's alright.  i'm pretty scared and i feel awkward about talking to dad.

EB: but it's best to make connections now than later.  or you might regret it.

Dave stops responding for a while and it makes you worried. Sh**, did you overstep some boundaries? You were being a little pushy...

EB: dave?

...To your relief, he does respond.

TG: you sound like rose

That makes you cringe slightly. Yeah, yeah, you're acting out of the norm. But this is a serious topic that you have to risk your true self in showing. You don't want to drag Dave into your own problems, but you still want to help him.

TG: like seriously is there some sort of rose virus i dont know about

This makes you calm down slightly. Okay, here you can act a little goofy. With a small smile, you type a response to Dave's little joke.

EB: dave!  you're my best bro and i'm worried about you! >:B

EB: i worry about everyone too, so i'm not pitying you!

TG: woah john chill

EB: sorry.

TG: no prob but i guess ill try it your way

TG: ill try this sappy sh**

TG: im doin this man

TG: im making it happen

A knot in your chest unwinds with relief. This meant Dave was going to attempt to fix the broken relationship too! Nice.

EB: yay! :B

TG: now you sound like GG

Your heart pangs slightly at the mention of your ecto-sister, but you push through to keep your dark emotions down as Dave continues to type.

TG: are you secretly them and you change forms or something

Beep, beep!

You blink in surprise and look at your screen.  The Beta has finished loading.  Alright, you guess it's time to get this show on the road.

EB: sorry, dave!  the game's loaded and ready to go.  i'll pester you later once i see how it goes so far.

TG: fine egderp

TG: have fun

-- ectoBiologist [ EB ] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [ TG ] at 16:59 --

You look at your screen and take a deep breath.  You move your mouse to click on the SBURB icon.  You grimace slightly in the memory of what's to come in battle.  But then you smile at the memory of your new friends.

...

It's show time.

==> John: Enter.

Chapter Text

==> John: Enter.

Your name is John Egbert, and you're currently connecting yourself to Rose's server.  The familiar circle is spinning and swirling on your screen. You wait for it to load.  When it's finally done, you notice that your chest of magical items in now floating in the air.  You watch with slight dismay as your chest is placed onto your roof with a loud thud.

EB: rose! :(

TT: Sorry, John. I'm still trying to get used to these controls.

You sigh softly.  It can't be helped you guess.

Ping!

Ah! Someone's pestering you.

==> John: See who the pesterer is.

...

It was Jade. It was your....i-it was your sister. You swallow, blinking back tears as you gaze at your screen. You smile lopsidedly as you accept the pester.

-- gardenGnostic [ GG ] began pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 17:00 --

GG: john! happy birthday! :)

EB: thanks, jade! :B

GG: did you get my present, john?

You pause.  You had decided earlier that you were going to get your present later--as in shenanigans happen and the green package somehow ends up in your hands. How should you respond to her?  Perhaps the truth...?

EB: actually, i haven't got to it yet.

GG: aw. :(

GG: well, i hope it gets there soon!

GG: you'll love it! :)

Oh course you would love it. It was from your ecto-sister. How could you not love anything about your ecto-sister?

....

You miss your sister.

EB: i'm excited for it. :B

GG: by the way, john. are you playing that beta game with rose right now?

Ah, yes. Jade was always the one who slept the most, causing her to be able to look into the clouds of Skaia more often. You smile fondly at this before pretending to be amazed by how she seems to know everything.

EB: i am! how did you know?

GG: heehee! it's a secret~! :D

EB: darn. :B

EB: well, i gotta go now. rose just placed my toilet outside of the house.

GG: sounds like fun! :)

EB: pfft, my house is being wrecked and it sounds like fun to you?

GG: yep! XD

EB: yes, destruction is the best! ;B

GG: yay! :D

GG: okay, i'll pester you when you're not too busy.

GG: bye john! :)

EB: bye jade!

-- gardenGnostic [ GG ] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 17:09 --

Rose expands your room a bit, placing a few familiar devices there.  As Rose does this, you decide to get up from your seat and explore the living room downstairs.  Before you leave, you decide to take Liv Tyler and your PDA with you. Perhaps you'd need her company and your mobile device for the journey.

==> John: Captchalog the bunny and your PDA.

You do just that, taking ol' Liv Tyler with you and your PDA to communicate with your friends instead of using your computer.  You exit your room and glance over at the railing and sigh.  It seems that Rose had placed the Cruxtruder in front of the front door once again. You hide a smile of amusement before you look down and type on your PDA.

EB: rose! you put a giant thingy in front of my front door! D:

TT: That would be the Cruxtruder. And I had no idea your front door was there.

TT: It's quite difficult to tell from my point of view.

==> John: Head downstairs and have a moment of nostalgia.

You stand in front of the Cruxtruder, where the Kernelsprite would come out and the countdown would start.

EB: rose, what's this device for?

TT: I'm not really sure. Let me try....

Let the game begin.

==> John: Switch to a third person view.

Rose used her cursor to click on the top of the Cruxtruder.

There was a brief flash of light before the Kernelsprite popped out from the giant device and a light blue cylinder of cruxite dowel. John darted his blue eyes to the numbers that appeared on the side of the Cruxtruder.

4:13.

Four minutes and thirteen seconds.

TT: Uh-oh.

EB: what's 'uh-oh'?

TT: It appears that I've activated the game and

TT: Your house will apparently be hit by meteors once that countdown is finished.

EB: what!?!

John pretends to be panicked as he glanced around the room.

TT: Don't panic, John.

EB: well your house isn't the one that's about to be hit by meteors!

In all honesty, John could shrink those meteors with Jade's Space powers.

TT: John, calm down.

TT: Take that cruxite dowel on the ground over there. It's the cylinder-shaped blue object by your feet.

John quickly captchalogged it.

EB: okaaaay.

EB: what do i do with it? :B

TT: You need to head upstairs and have it carved in the Totem Lathe.

TT: Then you need to go to your balcony where the Alchemiter is and

-- tentacleTherapist [ TT ] lost connection --

EB: rose!?

John studied his PDA for a bit more, waiting for thirty seconds to tick by.  When there was no response, he grinned slightly.

'I hope she can't see me right now. Time to move!'

John quickly darted out of the living room, dashing up the stairs. He flung the door to his room open and found the Totem Lathe on the expanded part of his room.  He released his cruxite dowel to have it carved. Once the cylinder was carved , John captchalogged the newly shaped cruxite and headed towards the balcony.

John felt heat. It was heavy in the air, pressing down on him. He spared a glance upwards and saw a large meteor falling from the sky.

Ping!

The ravenet blinked owlishly before pulling his PDA out.

-- turntechGodhead [ TG ] began pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 17:16 --

TG: hey

TG: just checking in

EB: sorry dave! not now!

TG: woah what

EB: meteors are raining down on my house, and i'll die if i don't create a thing with my carved cruxite.

TG: wtf

EB: pester you later!

TG: egbert

-- ectoBiologist [ EB ] blocked turntechGodhead [ TG ] --

John quickly placed the carved cruxite on the Alchemiter. In a few seconds, a light-blue tree grew on the Alchemiter. A similarly colored apple grew on the tree and dropped off instantly, landing on John's outstretched hand.

John lifted the apple up in front of his face, smiling fondly; the image of the cruxite fruit was reflected in the lens of his glasses.

'Here we go.'

==> John: Take a bite of the apple.

John's buckteeth met the soft surface of the apple.  And he took a bite.

There was a bright flash of white light, engulfing John's entire house and himself.  When the light vanished as quickly as it came, no traces of John's house was left.  The meteor hit, shaking the Earth to its core.

~~

==> John: Be TT

Who's TT?

==> John: Be the girl one hour ago.

A young lady stands in her bedroom. Clothes of purple and black are scattered about her room. The weather around her place is rather unstable, including the Wi-Fi connection.

What shall we name this young lady?

|

FLIGHTY BROAD|

No! Wrong!

|

ROSE LALONDE|

Yes, correct.

Your name is Rose Lalonde, and you're secretly excited for the new Beta game that has been recently released.  Your friend, EB, will be receiving a copy of the Beta in his mail today.

Speaking of EB, it's your friend's birthday.  Since you could not send your gift on time to him, you could at least wish him happy birthday in your own way.

==> Rose: Pester your dear friend to wish him happy birthday.

You head over to your laptop, sit down in your computer chair, and log into Pesterchum.

Ping!

Oh? It seems someone has decided to pester you before you could pester John.

==> Rose: See who it is.

-- turntechGodhead [ TG ] began pestering tentacleTherapist [ TT ] at 16:18 --

TG: yo TT

TG: b4 u start going on a sh**ty therapist role play i wanna ask about something

TG: hey

TG: yo

TG: TT

TG: are u ignoring me

TG: im offended

TG: ...

TG: hello

TG: hey hey hey

TG: crazy lady come on

TG: please dont be so drawn

TG: i get you like to be a spooky girl

TG: but that just aint how i whirl

Goodness, it was still going. Your friend was quite in the rambling mood again. However...TG must've been trying his best to get your attention. You smile amusedly as you read the rest of the red words.

TG: talk to me lalonde

TG: its about time we bond

TG: well have sh**s and giggles

TG: be up in the house like rich peoples

TG: forgive me for being so assertive

TG: i just dont want ya to be so furtive

TG: well be swapping secrets

TG: but it doesnt have to be frequent

TG: ill be honest i wont pry

TG: so lets be friends aye

Dave ceases his rant there and you smile amusedly, raising an eyebrow before you finally respond.

TT: Is that it?

TG: there you are

TT: I was waiting patiently for my screen to be overflowed with red text.

TT: Sadly, you stopped.

TG: wow

TG: all this time you couldve talked to me

TG: ur a jerk

TT: I'm sorry that I have offended you.

TT: I shall now keep my tongue. Do carry on, David.

TG: my names not david gog d**n it

Your smile widens with even more amusement, and a giggle slips past your lips.

TT: Did you just say 'Gog' instead of 'God'?

TG: my finger slipped

TG: anyways

TG: important matters to discuss

TG: now

TT: I'm all ears, Oh Great One.

TG: cut the sass lalonde

TG: so egderp

You arch one eyebrow up slightly before frowning. You had a slight foreboding feeling in your gut as you carefully type back.

TT: Oh? This is about John?

TG: hush i wasnt done talking yet

TT: Apologies. I'm 'shutting the f**k up' s you would put it.

TG: good so egbert

TG: i pestered him earlier today and

TG: egderp is acting kinda

TG: i dunno like

TG: hes not acting like

TG: himself

...Not...himself? You hum softly as you brush a lock of your hair behind your right ear, shifting slightly in your seat. Perhaps John isn't being himself because it's his birthday? No......Dave wouldn't be so...worried and say that John is not acting like himself. You type a response in the end.

TT: Is that all?

TG: yes

TG: he just increased the level of his dorkiness or something

TG: he even used that bucktooth emoticon

TG: why john

TG: why would he do that

TG: he ruined our bromanship

TG: his level of dorkiness is too much for me

You resist rolling your eyes as you smile fondly, propping your chin up with your left hand while your right hand types a response.

TT: Well, Dave, I'd say you're also increasing your 'level of dorkiness'.

TG: stfu

TG: but seriously

TG: im worried about him

TG: because

TG: well

TG: the dork always looks out for us and we havent done enough to return the favor

You sigh softly to yourself before nodding in mild agreement even though Dave couldn't see you. You lift your chin from your hand, gaze narrowed slightly. You hope John was alright and Dave was just being a little paranoid. Ah, but Dave's instincts have never been something to brush to the side. With another sigh, you respond, both hands on the keyboard.

TT: John is indeed a person with a saint-like heart.

TT: Fine, I'll make sure to check up on him.

TT: I was going to wish him happy birthday since my present couldn't reach him in time.

TG: k

TG: dont harass him with your creepy black magic

TT: Alright, Strider. This is farewell for now.

TG: see ya lalonde

-- turntechGodhead [ TG ] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [ TT ] at 16:25 --

You smile with fond amusement at TG's antics. He may put up an elusive front, but in truth, he was a really caring guy when it came to his friends and family.

==> Rose: Contact John.

You open up a new window and start pestering your other friend.

-- tentacleTherapist [ TT ] began pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 16:26 --

TT: I understand you have recently come into possession of the beta release of "The Game of the Year, as featured in respectable periodicals such as the GameBro Magazine.

EB: that's an ugly rumor.

EB: whoever told you that is a filthy liar.

EB: and you should probably stop hitting on him all the time or whatever.

TT: I can't control myself.

TT: I must have a weakness for insufferable pr**ks.

You smile amusedly, getting the feeling that EB was laughing at your sarcasm.

==> Rose: Fulfill TG's request and check up on John for him.

TT: So, John, I have heard some interesting news from a little crow-boy that you've been acting strange lately. Care to tell me? I'm all ears.

EB: well, to be truthful, i had a little nightmare.

A nightmare?

TT: Do you wish to confide with me about it?

EB: not really.

The answer was so immediate, that you sat up slightly in your computer chair with interest.

TT: Oh?

John seems to be acting like.....how did Dave put it--'not himself'.

TT: Dave's right.

TT: You're acting a bit strange.

EB: what do you mean? :B

TT: The John that I know usually hares his thoughts with me. No matter how whacky.

Now John stopped responding for a few minutes, causing you to become a bit concerned. Ou decided to ask if our friend's presence was still on Pesterchum.

TT: John? Are you still there?

There was a slight pause before John answered. Thank goodness.

EB: bluuuuuuuuuuh!

He makes the cutest frustrated noises when he types.

EB: okay, okay. i'll tell you a few things.

You prepare yourself for anything. You hope that it's nothing too serious.

TT: Alright. Go on.

EB: so, i dreamed we had super powers and we were fighting bad guys.

'Super powers'? 'Bad guys'? And then there's 'we'......

TT: "We". As in you, Dave, Jade and me?

EB: uh.

EB: yeah.

EB: and then...um...we ere attacked by a giant beast. the end.

John was being rather......vague with his answers.

TT: Oh? That was rather short.

TT: Hmm, well, can you describe what we looked like in your dream?

EB: everything was kinda fuzzy, so no. i can't really describe it.

John is definitely hiding something.

TT: I see...

TT: Perhaps this dream represents future problems.

EB: ?

TT: Possibly, your dream means, no matter how strong we get, something stronger will defeat us.

EB: no way! we're the best! >:B

You were slightly surprised by the typed outburst.

TT: You sound pretty confident.

EB: because i am. we're all the best, rose. but dave's a dork.

His words were heartwarming, and oddly.....certain. Like Dave, him, Jade and you were going to do something....unimaginable....

You decide to suppress the billions of questions in your head, settling with complimenting and cooing over John.

TT: Haha. You're so cute, John. But I do love your enthusiasm. Your words also make me happy and more confident in myself. Are you planning to be the President one day?

EB: pffffffffffft bluuuuuurgh!

EB: too much work, rose! plus, i would probably use the missile launch codes they had to destroy every single betty crocker industry.

A typical John response.

TT: Brilliant. Then the world will be free from Betty Crocker.

There's a pause, so you can only guess that John is doing something else or laughing at your little joke. You decide to be the first to text.

TT: By the way, did you receive the beta?

EB: yep! :B

TT: Are you going to install it yet?

John stops responding again. This time, he pause is longer.  EB doesn't type back for a few minutes and you're on the brink of becoming antsy.  And then John came back.

TT: John, where have you been?

With John already acting strange, you feel worried when he doesn't respond immediately.

EB: sorry! i was doing some important things.

EB: i'll download the beta now. :B

A few minutes passed by before you were able to see John in his room.  That little goofball was at his computer at the moment.

==> Rose: Test out the controls.

You move your cursor and pick up John's chest full of magic.  You zoom out f John's room so you can see his entire house.  You accidentally drop John's chest on the ravenet's roof.

EB: roooose! :(

You giggle slightly.

TT: Sorry, John. I'm still trying to get used to these controls.

You click around your screen.  You can't pick up John or anything. Nor can you leave the area of where John is, which was his house.

You start expanding John's room, glancing at another window you had open on your screen.  The GameFAQs window you opened had a few walkthroughs done by other SBURB players before you and John.  Some of the walkthroughs were cut off, but you were still looking through them while writing your own.

You release the Cruxtruder in John's living room.

John's apparently talking to Jade at the moment. That's fine. You still need to release the Alchemiter. Where to put it....ah, the balcony.  You see John head out of his room. He seems exasperated about something as he stands at the top of the stairs.

EB: rose! you put a giant thingy in front of my front door! D:

Oh. That's why he's exasperated.

TT: That would be the Cruxtruder. And I had no idea your front door was there.

TT: It's quite difficult to tell from my point of view.

You look through one walkthrough for the SBURB game.

EB: rose, what's this device for?

TT: I'm not really sure. Let me try....

The writer says....to click on the top of the Cruxtruder to officially start the game.

==> Rose: Officially start the game.

You move your cursor and click on the top of the Cruxtruder.  There's a bright flash before an orb of light and a cylinder pop out of the Cruxtruder.  You look back at GameFAQs to see the next step.

...

.....

...Oh no...

TT: Uh-oh.

Sh**.  You screwed up.

EB: what's 'uh-oh'?

TT: It appears that I've activated the game and

TT: Your house will apparently be hit by meteors once that countdown is finished.

EB: what!?!

John appears to be panicked.  That's not good.  He needs to have a clear, calm mind. 

TT: Don't panic, John.

EB: well your house isn't the one that's about to be hit by meteors!

Very true.  You sigh softly.

TT: John, calm down.

TT: Take that cruxite dowel on the ground over there. It's the cylinder-shaped blue object by your feet.

John quickly captchalogged it.

EB: okaaaay.

EB: what do i do with it? :B

TT: You need to head upstairs and have it carved in the Totem Lathe.

TT: Then you need to go to your balcony where the Alchemiter is and

-- tentacleTherapist [ TT ] lost connection --

...

F**k.

Of all times....your internet had to stop working now!?

You quickly get out of your seat. If you remember correctly, John had four minutes and thirteen seconds. You need to hurry.

You peak out of your window and blink in mild surprise. You had read a bit more of the walkthrough, where it said that meteors would rain down on the player and the server player. Red balls of flames darted across the sky, but none of the meteors seemed too close at the moment.

Never mind the meteors for now. You need to save John.

==> Rose: Find a place where you can get connected with the Wi-Fi again.

You peer out of your window, rain splattering against the glass. You blink in remembrance when you see your dead cat's, Jaspers's, mausoleum. Strangely enough, Jaspers's mausoleum had one of the strongest Wi-Fi points in the area. You'll need to get outside.

==> Rose: Find better Wi-Fi.

You quickly captchalog your laptop using your Tree Fetch Modus. You grab your knitting needles to place them in your Strife Specibi; you never know if you might run into your MOM. You also decide to grab some of your other knitting tools and a few balls of yarn.

Alright.

==> Rose: Get going. You have a friend to save.

You exit your room. The lights were currently out at the moment. Probably another power outage.

You glance at the wizard paintings on the wall briefly before steeling your attention back to John.

==> Rose: Be careful! You're about to pass your mother's room!

You crouch down sightly, preparing to dart across the opening where a hall went towards your mom’s room.

Lightning flashes outside, and you're quite certain you saw a brief silhouette of your mom.

When light fills the room again for a second, your mom’s silhouette is gone. You take this chance to dart across.

Nothing happens, so you take this as a sign of safety.

You head down the stairs, hoping that you'll make it in time. A minute and a half has already passed by because of your shenanigans!

You're almost at the door--!

Suddenly, there is a blur that darts in front of you.

A tall, slim woman with similar blonde hair gazes at you. Her bright, pink eyes were lit up with amusement as she took a sip of the martini glass in her hand.

Oh God, its your mother!

==> Rose: STRIFE!

You pull out your knitting needles, prepared for your mother’s move.

She seems drunk as usual but not too tipsy.

==> Rose: Aggrieve!

"Mother," You grit out in frustration. "Get out of my way!"

You manage a few jabs at your mother with your knitting needles.  Your tipsy mother dodges with ease, smiling amusedly as he eyes glittered with excitement in the darkness.

Suddenly, Mom offers you a sip of her martini.

Really!?

==> Rose: Abstain!

You refuse the offer, and your mom backs up.  You crouch down and lunge in for another quick jab with your needles.  Your mom dodges but she still remains in front of the door.

And then your mom suddenly offers you a pony. When did Mom even get her--you think the pony is female--into the house?!

==> Rose: Abjure!

Your abjure was successful.  However, you begrudgingly pat the snout of the pony.  Your mom seems amused by this, a drunk chuckle slipping from her lips.

==> Rose: Just go past her!  You need to help John!

You grit your teeth and quickly crouch before rolling past Mom, turning to face her once you were free. You were aware that your mom would still come after you, so you try to tell her off now.

"Mother, I'm really busy at the moment--I don't have time for this!"

Mom seems to be surprised by this, and she falters in her attack.  Her--you reluctantly admit--sweet voice comes out slightly slurred from the alcohol she previously drank.

"....We~ll, Rosey.  You coulda just said so...."

You blink in surprise when your mom immediately stopped her Ironic Attacks of Negligence and Indulgence.  Mom gently pats your head as she walks around you, a small smile on her black lips.

"You take care, Rosey~....I'll be somewhere around the house."

You watch as your mom leaves.  You're a bit confused on her sudden change of behavior.  A snort is heard behind yourself, and you quickly turn to see that the pony your mom offered you before was still there.

This brought you back to what you were doing in the first place!

John!

==> Rose: Finally go to Jaspers's mausoleum!

You open your front door and dash through the rain, raising your arms slightly above your head to shield it from the cool drops.  Finally, you're under the small roof of Jaspers's mausoleum.  You see your pet cat's casket and open it, having a moment of silence for your cat....

==> Rose: Defile tomb.

....before pushing the casket off of the stone slab it was on.

"Sorry, Jaspers," You murmur to yourself. "I have to make space for the laptop. Besides, your final resting place is already a mockery. You should have decomposed years ago under a bed of petunias like a normal cat...."

You shake your head and sigh softly, taking your laptop out of your Tree Fetch Modus.  This, however, caused everything in your system to fall out and collapse.

D**n it!

Oh well, you pick everything up again and put it back in your Fetch system before turning your attention back to your laptop.  You quickly open it and chew on your bottom lip with slight worry.

You've been gone for five minutes.

Did John make it?  He didn't have directions!

God....please don't let him be dead....

Your screen loaded and you were....back at John's house?

You were surprised and relieved to see that John's house was there.  But not only that--John's house was on a rather precarious pillar of rock, surrounded by an inky darkness.

But where was John?

You checked each room of the house with worry while opening up a Pesterchum window.

-- tentacleTherapist [ TT ] began pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 17:22 --

TT: John?  Where are you?

EB: oh, hey rose!

Thank God...

TT: Where are you John?

EB: oh...well....

TT: Are you hurt?

EB: i'm kinda in my dad's bedroom....so....

You immediately search for the said room.  You're going to ask him how he was able to get into the Medium without your hel--

...

John is seen...curled up on Mr. Egbert's bed.  You see John's expression.....and it makes your heart clench slightly with worry.

TT: John...?

TT: Are you alright?

John's expression looks sad--like he remembered something terrible.  John seems to shake out of his musings and puts on a smile.  A smile which you thought seemed a bit strained.  You watch as he texts back on his PDA.

EB: i'm fine, rose! :B

TT: Your expression before said otherwise.

EB: ...

John chews on his bottom lip.

TT: John....

EB: .....dad's gone.

Oh.

EB: and i don't know where he is at the moment.

John....

You furrow your eyebrow and zoom out of Mr. Egbert's room, searching the rest of the house.  Mr. Egbert was nowhere in sight. Although...there were black stains littering the area....

You head back over to John, who decided to sit up this time, swinging his legs gently over the edge of the bed.

==> Rose: Study your friend.

...

...Since when did John...look so....lonely...?  Before, John would always be happy when his father's presence wasn't there in the house. But now....he looks as if someone.....

...

....As if someone had died.

EB: but i'm sure he's okay. :)

You watch with slight surprise as a warm, fond smile spreads across John's lips on the screen.

EB: if he meets any bad guys, he'll blast them away with his cake and punches! :B

You smile slightly. John was always the one to be optimistic.  You'll question him later about how he got in on his own.

TT: John.

EB: yes?

TT: Where's the Kernelsprite that came out of the Cruxtruder?

EB: um...you mean that bright orb of light?

TT: Yes.

EB: oh....well, the kernelsprite thingy touched the harlequin my dad got me for my birthday, and then....well, he happened.

You watch with some amusement at the new sprite that had been prototyped once so far. You recognize the familiar face of the harlequin doll that was sitting in John's room before.  The Harlequinsprite darted around the room, making soft, giggling noises.

TT: John, make sure not to touch it. It needs to be prototyped a second time before you can make any physical contact with it.

EB: gotcha. so what do we prototype it with next?

TT: Perhaps with one of your large books?

EB: alright. i'll try to gain the sprite's attention, and then you can prototype it!

TT: Okay. Here it goes...

John makes exaggerated gestures to gain the Harlequinsprite's attention.  You move your cursor to pick up John's large Colonel Sassacre book and try to make it touch the sprite.  But the Harlequinsprite was apparently mischievous and dodged John's and your attempts to prototype it again. The sprite cackled and darted out of the room.  John seems to grin and chase after the sprite, exiting his dad’s room.

You zoom out quickly to follow the Harlequinsprite too. You watch with surprise when John took a rather risky leap off of the railing to catch up to the sprite, bouncing on the couch before tumbling onto the living room floor.

TT: Goodness gracious, John, be careful.

EB: haha! sorry, but the couch broke my fall anyways. :B

John had the sprite backed up by the fireplace.  Suddenly, the house on your screen shook violently. You watch as the urn above the fireplace spills out onto the Harlequinsprite. Looks like the second prototype is set in stone already. What's going to happen....?

John looks at the transforming sprite with a wide grin.....like he expected this to happen.

Strange....

You watch as the Harlequinsprite took on a new form....before the sprite vanished from sight.

EB: ...aw...where did it go? :(

TT: The sprite shouldn't be far away. It'll return soon enough.

TT: For now, let's build up your house.

EB: build it up?

TT: There's a gate above the house that you need to get to. I need to work on expanding things.

TT: Also...

TT: You can alchemize things with the Alchemiter on your balcony.

TT: Just captchalog some of the items around your house. You can make something with them.

TT: And I believe you need some more cruxite from the Cruxtruder.

EB: okay! and i think i might know how to carve the cruxite stuff!

TT: Oh? Do tell.

EB: i noticed that there were these codes on the back of the cards of my captchalog deck.

EB: i think i'm supposed to put that code into the totem lathe thingy.

TT: I see.

TT: Well, have fun alchemizing. Make sure to be safe.

TT: I feel concerned about those strange black stains everywhere.

EB: okay! i'll pester you later rose!

-- tentacleTherapist [ TT ] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 17:31 --

==> Rose: Be John.

You are now John.

And right now....you have mixed feelings about what's happening.  Your dad is, once again, gone, and you're disliking the separation. You hope that you'll be able to save him--you mean, OF COURSE YOU'LL SAVE HIM!

You're not going to let anyone die this time!

==> John: Create awesome sh** for your journey.

You head to the Cruxtruder and eject a few more cylinders of light-blue cruxite. You captchalog them and head back up stairs to your room.

You open the door an--

Clunk!

.....

....Blue goop from a bucket just spilled over your head.

NANNAAAAA!

Well, irritation aside, you've missed your ol' Nanna.

"Hoo, hoo, hoo~! I got you~!"

You can't help but smile as you try to take out the goop from your hair. When you look up, you see the familiar face of Nanna, her bucktoothed smile, glasses and cheery was just the same as you remembered it to be.  Nanna tilted her head, causing her harlequin hat to flop slightly.

"Hoo, hoo~hello, John!"

You act confused.

"N-Nanna?"

"Yes, it's me, John! And my, have you grown so much!"

She reaches her ghostly arm out and playfully pinches your cheek. Before, you would've been irritated at the gesture, but her touch is warm and comforting.

You missed Nanna.

"I'm surprised you're alive again...."

Nanna let's go of your cheek and giggles again.

"You did prototype me after all. But now, John, I see that you have important things to do. Perhaps I'll make cookies for you while you work?"

It's been a while....so....

You smile and nod.

"Cookies sound great, Nanna. Thank you."

Nanna's smile seems to dim for a moment before it returns to its usual brightness.  her eyes are searching, looking concerned before she floated up.  She giggles and nods.

"Okay~I'll have a fresh batch ready for you, hoo, hoo~!"

Nanna floats out of the room, leaving you to your own thoughts.

You drop the cruxite off by the Totem Lathe before exiting your room.  You silently head over to the door to the balcony. You open the door and take a step outside. The air is a bit chilly, crisp air fills your nose when you inhale softly.

You stand by the railing, placing your hands on the bar. When you look up, you see the familiar cloudy sky with a few fireflies lazily making their way across the expanse. You then bring your gaze to the ground below, where you can see a land filled with light-blue, glowing mushrooms, black, oil rivers and blue, stone paths.

You smile softly.

"I'll do my best, guys."

....

A young man no longer stands in his bedroom.

Your name is John Egbert, and you are now in the Land of Wind and Shade.

==> John: Alchemize stuff.

Chapter Text

==> John: Alchemize stuff.

You head back to your room, taking one last look at The Land of Wind and Shade.

Once inside the house, you take a whiff of the familiar smell of cookies being baked.  You smile fondly before heading to your room, but you pause.  You remember, if you're going to make awesome outfits, you'll need to borrow the suits that Dad gave you as a second part to your birthday presents.

==> John: Go to your dad’s room.

You enter your dad’s room and smell tobacco in the air.

....You miss your dad....

You shake your head and sigh, captchalogging your suits and gushers--also your extra captchalog cards.  You head out of the room and go to yours.

Once inside your room, you--

Clunk.

Ah. 

You look down to see that your foot slightly kicked your fake arms that you had pulled out of your magic chest before you entered the Medium.  You pick them up and study them briefly.

...

Perhaps they'll come in handy later on--pun not intended.  You quickly captchalog your fake arms.

You walk over to the Totem Lathe.  You haven't seen one of these for quite a while.  You insert one of the cruxite cylinders into the device to get it carved with the punched cards. Once all of the cruxite is carved, you captchalog them all before heading back out to the balcony where the Alchemiter is.

Ping!

Woah!  Someone's pestering you.

==> John: Check it out.

-- timeausTestified [ TT ] began pestering windybreathHeir [ WH ] at 17:40 --

TT: Got you, you little sh**.

Uh-oh.  How did Bro manage to unblock himself from your other account!?

WH: uh...hey...?

TT: You motherf***er.  It annoys me that I had to hack you in order to talk to you.

Oh.  So that's how he did it.

TT: Now.  I want some answers.

WH: answers?

TT: Don't play dumb.

==> John: Remember that you're talking to Bro Strider at the moment.

Don't mess with him.

WH: ahaha...uh...

TT: My patience is dwindling to zero, Heir.

WH: omg.

WH: just

WH: dude!  you're not supposed to hack and unblock yourself!

WH: what the heck!?

TT: That's my line you turd.

TT: You can't just block me after threatening to kill my li'l man.

TT: I'll slice you in half.

Oh gosh.

You start alchemizing some of your old clothes by setting your carved cruxite onto the pedestal next to the large platform of the Alchemiter.

You made the Wise Guy Slime Suit! Oh, good memories.

...

...However, it makes you think of...Davesprite. Those pained, red-orange eyes gazed back at you--tore into you when you had kept on saying that he wasn't Dave. You had said it so many times in his f**king face even after all he had done for the others, and you--you especially.

...

...It's another reason why you don't deserve a great friend like Dave.

You quickly grab the outfit and hop off of the Alchemiter, turning your attention back to your PDA as you exit the balcony.

WH: mr. strider.

TT: Don't call me that. It makes me sound old. Call me Bro.

WH: um, okay. bro.

WH: i apologize for everything that happened earlier.

WH: that was nothing.  nothing at all.

WH: i just wanted to tell you to spend time with dave before anything bad happens.

TT: ...

WH: ?

TT: I'm gonna die.  Aren't I?

You fingers froze on your PDA. You halt at the entrance of the bathroom, breath stuttering in your lungs for a moment.

"I'm...gonna die..." Dave rasps to you as you press your hands harshly against the bleeding wound in his chest, using the Knight's cape to stifle the wound further. "...Aren't...I...?"

"No. No you're not." You bite out harshly, knees sinking into the golden sand of the battlefield. "J-Just wait for Jane to get here. You better not die--!”

"John...i-it'll be fine..." Your best bro hacks up a large mouthful of blood before he shakily smiles up at you. "It won't...be a Heroic...or a Just...de..ath......"

"That's no f**king excuse to die, you b*****d!" You shout back harshly before a sharp pain went up his side. D**n it, your stomach wound from Lord English's pool-ball attack earlier was starting to act up again. "...Dave, just a little l-longer...! Please--!"

...

...

...You realize......that Dave is no longer breathing. A lump slowly forms in your throat and your sight becomes a little blurry. You blink and swallow harshly as you hear a few voices call out for Dave and you. There's an explosion somewhere far away on the right, but your ears are ringing because of entirely different reason.

It's only been six months into the war...and Dave had already died--

A sharp chime reaches your ears, snapping you back to the presence. You stagger for a moment, suit slipping from your arms as you grasp onto the threshold to the bathroom. You gasp for air, eyes wide as you recall that scene from the war before you shake your head quickly.

This was the present now--the new present. Dave wasn't dead. No one was. You hear another chime then, causing your attention to go to the PDA that was miraculously still in your grasp. You blink, a bit dazed, but you read the golden-orange words there.

TT: ...

TT: I'm taking your silence as a yes.

A strong determination wells up within you as you quickly type back a response with shaky fingers.

WH: you aren't going to die!

TT: Woah.  That was fast.

WH: just

WH: uuuuuuuuuuuughskskwldnxkoqiwnsks

TT: Wow, I made someone do a keyboard smash.

WH: shoosh.  what i'm trying to say is that nobody's gonna die.

TT: But my thoughts are correct?

TT: Something tells me that I am.

You pause for a moment before you bend down to pick up your Wise Guy Slime suit. You enter the bathroom then, catching sight of yourself in the mirror for a bit. You smile sardonically at the weary gaze that greets you before you start changing into the slacks first before you respond.

WH: dude.  just focus on making good, brotherly relationships with dave.

WH: no one's going to die because i want to stop anything bad from happening.

WH: but now, i have some stuff to take care of.

WH: can we please pester each other later maybe?

You slip off your t-shirt and pull on the black undershirt. You slip on the green tie and then the suit top, your right arm already through one sleeve as your left went through the last one. Bro responds right after you button up a bit.

Ping!

TT: What the he**.

TT: ...

TT: Fine.

TT: Just so you know,

TT: I don't trust you at all.

WH: i know.

TT: But...

WH: ?

TT: I'm willing to try.

You blink in surprise at the words on your PDA as you grab your previous clothes, captchalogging them. You pause at the entrance of the bathroom, staring at those golden-orange words a little longer.

WH: ...

Slowly, a smile spreads across your lips, as you start walking again, heading towards the balcony. After a few minutes down the hall, you step through your balcony doorway.  You chuckle to yourself.  Bro wasn't that bad when you gave him the chance to try and express his feelings.

WH: thanks.

-- timeausTestified [ TT ] ceased pestering windybreathHeir [ WH ] at 17:47 --

You start to head back to your bedroom, stepping through the doorway before heading towards your bed. You don't need any hammers since you've already alchemized them, and--WAIT A MOMENT!

YOU FORGOT THAT YOU BLOCKED DAVE WITHOUT EXPLAINING ANYTHING!

==> John: Pester Dave before he kills you!

-- ectoBiologist [ EB ] unblocked turntechGodhead [ TG ] --

Instantly, the red text that you had blocked before flooded your screen.

-- ectoBiologist [ EB ] began pestering turntechGodhead [ TG ] at 17:48 --

TG: egbert

TG: egderp

TG: eggbutt

TG: EB

TG: you motherf**ker respond

TG: ill kick your a** if you dont say anything right now

TG: like right now

TG: now

TG: im about to lose my sh**

TG: if its about me talking trash about your movies i can take it all back

TG: egbert say something

TG: im giving up on you

TG: im sorry that i couldnt get to you

Oh my gosh. Pfft--!

You quickly take a seat on your bed, smiling amusedly at your PDA.

EB: are you seriously starting to sing say something by a great big world? :B

TG: jfc egbert

TG: do you have any idea how worried i was

You widen you eyes slightly.

Dave was actually telling you that he was worried?

EB: you were worried dave?

TG: of course i was

TG: youre my best bro

TG: although a f***ing meteor falling from the sky sounds like one of your pranks again it got me worried when you decided to be a d**k and block me from talking to you

EB: sorry. :(

EB: but i'm fine dave!  i'm safe from the meteor now, and i'm in the game!

TG: oh

TG: cool

EB: pfft--mr. cool guy is back, huh? :B

EB: no longer worried for my life?

TG: stfu egbert

TG: anyways what are you and lalonde doing now

EB: building my house up so it can reach these gate thingies above my place.

You equip your Pogo Hammer, squeezing and relaxing your grip around the handle.  Might as well start with a weaker weapon for now.  You idly toss it into the air before catching it, adjusting to the weight as you continue to watch your PDA.

TG: ok

TG: and im supposed to get lalonde into the game next right

Dave stopped typing after that.  Were you...supposed to type something back?  You thought Dave would talk some more.  You frown with concern, wiggling slightly on your bed.

EB: dave?

TG: f***

Oh.  Right.

Dave should be accidentally spilling apple juice on his copy of SBURb right about now.

EB: what happened?

EB: are you alright?

TG: i spilled my apple juice on my f***ing copy of sburb

EB: uh-oh. what are you going to do? D:

TG: ...

TG: my big bro has a copy

Oooooh....that's right.

Roof.  Strife.  Now.  Or something...

Yikes.  Good luck to you, Dave.

EB: are you going to ask him if you could have it?

TG: f**k i have to

TG: theres no saving my own copy

TG: f**k sh**

You need to act, John, remember?

EB: but you're just asking him for it, right?

TG: egbert

TG: asking is equivalent to fight me in bros dictionary

TG: omg

TG: if i dont make it i want you to know that youre the king of dorks egbert

EB: d'awwww!  thanks, dave! :B

TG: omg no not the bucktooth emoticon

EB: :BBBBBBB

TG: f u

-- turntechGodhead [ TG ] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 17:52 --

You smile fondly before frowning thoughtfully.  Maybe you should contact Bro about this.  With a soft yawn, you shrink your chat with Dave and open up a new chat box, humming softly.  Your blue eyes dart across the new screen you've opened.  Your fingers quickly move to type, starting the conversation.

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] began pestering timeausTestified [ TT ] at 17:53 --

WH: hi!

To your surprise, you didn't have to wait very long for Bro to respond to your text.

Ping!

TT: Okay, when you said, 'can we please pester each other later maybe?', I thought you meant much, much later.

WH: i know, i know.

WH: but i'm just warning you a bit that dave's looking for you.

TT: Warning me?  Why are you warning me?

WH: he needs your copy of sburb because he spilled his apple juice on his.  please don't beat him too bad, okay? 

TT: Yeesh, okay, mom.

You can't help but splutter slightly

WH: bluh!  just be careful with dave.

WH: he's a fragile princess.

TT: Pfft--!

TT: Okay.  That

TT: That was comedy gold.

TT: I'm starting to like you mysterious-person-who-won't-tell-me-their-real-name.

WH: great.  but seriously, don't hurt dave.  you can push him to his limits to get him to grow stronger, but don't injure him. >:T

TT: And you made a pouty face.  Cute.

TT: Alright.  I'll see what I can do.

WH: thanks. :)

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] ceased pestering timeausTestified [ TT ] at 17:56 --

Okay, now that everything's settled with Bro, you should probably start thinking about what to do next.

==> John: Make some sort of plan for the future.

Okay. 

So the big problem right now is the big baddies that you need to deal with.

Jack Noir, Spades Slick, Lord Jack, The Condesce and Lord English.

...

You're quite certain that Lord English is top priority.  His strength is nothing to joke about.

Jack Noir would come second because of his ability to teleport.  He had already gotten you stabbed through the back twice--it would be best to prepare for attacks coming from behind.  However, you could possibly stop Bec, Jade's overpowered dog, from merging with your biological-sister's Kernelsprite, but you're afraid to affect the timeline too much. 

But you suppose that you have Jade's Space powers on your side, so you're not too worried about him.

Speaking of Jade's powers....you don't know the limits of all of your new powers.  Surely having Light, Time, Space and Breath with put some strain on your body.

What the heck.  It's only a small price to pay for your friends.

But if you were to faint....boy, that would cause concern and questions to arise, and you wouldn't want that to happen.

Anyways, PM....she's not actually a threat.  She could possibly assist you in fighting Jack Noir.

Lord Jack might be as troubling as Lord English, but he could also be a bit weaker than the giant cherub.  Still...that great power is still troublesome.  You believe Dave, Terezi and Dirk had a lot a trouble.

The Condesce was a problem. You and your group were lucky because Roxy managed to catch the troll queen by surprise with her trusty katana. And her power to control the minds of animals will be troubling if she gets a hold of Jade again.

And then there's Spades Slick--and wasn't there that group called The Felt? You believe Jake took care of them--on his own.

Speaking of Jake and Roxy, you need to think about that three year-long wait to meet them. Is there a way to communicate with them? You recall Dirk talking about being able to pester Jake through a 400 year span. Perhaps you can do the same somehow?

...

...So much sh** to think about...

...You sigh softly as you set your PDA and Pogo Hammer down on the bed beside you, placing your head in your now empty hands.

You can't rush things--you know that very well--but you can't help it. You're worried--scared to death. You don't want them to die--THEY WON'T DIE.

You take another breath.

In.

And out.

Breathe.

Inhale...

...Exhale.

You blink your bright, blue eyes and lift your gaze from the floor of your room and stare at the white wall in front of you.

...

...Perhaps a nap will help sort your thoughts a bit.

==> John: Get comfortable.

You adjust yourself on the bed, swinging your legs up onto the soft mattress. You wiggle backwards slightly, pushing your PDA and weapon to the side--but not too far away because you want to be able to leap into action if necessary--and lay your head onto your pillow. You stare up at the ceiling before shutting your eyes, letting your body try and relax.

==> John: Sleep.

...

......

Darkness.

When you open your eyes again...you see nothing but darkness.

You sit up in the darkness.

Nothing.

You furrow your eyebrows. You were kinda expecting to wake up on your Prospit bed or something.

You move to stand, but while doing so, you catch sight of your hands and freeze.

Blood.

Red, red, red blood.

It stained your hands--

No, no, no, no, no, no--get it off, get it off, GET IT OFF--!

You scramble to your feet.

Suddenly the darkness vanishes. You dart your gaze around frantically, seeing black and white checkered ground around you. There's...a very, very familiar castle when you turn to look behind yourself. It looms over you, dark and threatening.

Something hits your head--cold and wet. You raise your gaze upwards. Black clouds roil above, covering up the blue sky. Black raindrops fall from the clouds--cold and unforgiving on your skin.

You feel a shiver go up your spine.

This...this scene....!

Oh no.

"S...on...?"

You whip around quickly, nearly slipping on the checkered ground, bringing your wild gaze to the person who spoke.

Blank, white eyes--they should be cobalt--gaze at you.  Your DAD stands in front of you, arms hanging loosely by his sides.  His hat is missing, gone from his head.  And his white dress-shirt....it's dyed with red.

You swallow and take a step towards Dad.

"D-Da--?"

"It's y..our...fault..."

The words were slowly spoken, and scratchy, but...they cut deep.  Deep and cold, filling your heart with ice shards.

You--

You...stopped breathing and stopped moving as you slowly widened your eyes and stared at Dad.  Dad continues, white eyes narrowed sharply.

Ping!

"You let me die." His voice comes out clearer. "You were too weak...too foolish...too slow."

You start to shake.

"Dad, I--"

"WHY COULDN'T YOU SAVE ME AND YOUR FRIENDS!?"

Ping!

The sudden change of tone caused you to take a few steps back in fear.

"I'm s-sorry...sorry....s-so sorry....!"

Dad took menacing steps towards you.  The scene was slowly changing behind him as your back pressed up against the castle walls.  You recognized the blue stone walls of your Denizen's home.

You felt your feet sink into the ground a little and you dared a glance downwards at your feet.

Oil.

Black, inky, gooey oil.

Ping, Ping!

You couldn't make any noise except for a silent scream when you started to sink into the oil.  You tried to pull yourself from the oil, but it clung to you.

Dad continued to glare coldly at you with his white eyes.

"You disgrace.  A failure.  An embarrassment."

You stopped struggling at those words.  They rang in your head, rattling your brain.  Your shaking turned violent.

Ping!

You swallowed.  And tried to open your mouth to deny--

Deny....

...

...Deny what...?

It's....it's the truth....

...

You....

You failed them.

The oil was past your waist.

Ping!

You sank into the oil faster.

It was at your neck.

You got one last glimpse of Dad's face before you fell completely into the oil's sticky embrace.  You drifted in the darkness, yet you could still breathe.  You felt something press against your back before something simply slides right through you.  But you feel numb from your DAD's words. 

However, you still feel the rough breath against your ear, and the dark, growling voice of one Jack Noir. Black feathers fluttered around the area.

"So long, kid."

The blade was roughly pulled out, blood standing out against the darkness as you fell forward into the growing puddle of red.  You felt your energy leaving you as Jack's laughter filled the air, echoing...rebounding in the void. You stared blankly to the side as your cheek rested on the invisible ground.

Ping!

You can't help but furrow your eyebrows slightly, fingers twitching weakly.  What was...that noise?  It kept popping up in your--

Wait.

Your dream.

You were dreaming.

==> John: Wake up!

Your blue eyes snap open and you shoot up from your bed with a gasp.

You glance around wildly, fumbling for your Pogo Hammer.

Ping!

The familiar noise brings you back to the present, and you dart your eyes to your PDA.  You stop your search for your Pogo Hammer and reach out with a shaky hand, grabbing the small device.

You adjust your glasses to see what pesters you missed...

-- tentacleTherapist [ TT ] began pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 18:13 --

TT: John?

TT: Are you sleeping?

TT: John?

TT: Your squirming is worrying me.

TT: John.  Wake up.

TT: John, please wake up.

TT: Wake.  Up.

TT: JOHN!

You swallow at the dry feeling in your mouth before responding to the frantic texts.

EB: hi rose! :B

TT: No, John.  Don't try and avoid the subject.  What happened?

You bite your bottom lip.

EB: rose...

TT: Please don't do this.  I'm concerned for you.

TT: Is it your nightmare?  Is it the same one?

TT: Please tell me.

TT: I want to help.

You blink back your tears and clench your PDA tightly.

EB: ...

You sigh softly.

EB: yeah.  i had a nightmare.

EB: but it wasn't the same one.

EB: it, uh...

EB: it was about dad.

EB: and....he was talking about how i was...

EB: a disgrace.

Rose doesn't respond.  So you try to smile and laugh dryly to yourself.

EB: heh, i must be having daddy issues or something, right?

TT: John.

TT: You're not telling me everything.

You flinch and immediately raise a hand to your chest, where Jack Noir stabbed you in your dream and in a past fight.

Ping!

TT: John, are your hurt?

You grit your teeth slightly. 

Stupid.  What are you doing?

You're making her worry more.

EB: no!  i'm alright.

EB: i thought i was gonna burp or something, haha!

EB: must've went away. :B

TT: John.  Please.

You clench your PDA tighter and bring it to your chest.

EB: i'm fine, rose.  really.

EB: i just...

EB: i just

Why is your vision getting blurry all of a sudden?  You're wearing your glasses, right?

Something falls onto your glasses.

...

Oh.

Tears.  You were crying.

You're quick to drop your PDA on your bed before taking your glasses off, wiping at your eyes frantically with your free hand.  You tried to smile because you knew Rose was still watching you.

...

Sh**.  You can't stop.  You're such a crybaby--!

...

Something warm settles on your shoulder, causing you to open your eyes--when had you closed them?--and look up in surprise.

"N-Nanna...?"

Her ghostly glow has dimmed slightly, and her smile is gone.  You catch the sent of cookies coming from her as she moves her single arm to settle on your cheek, gently brushing her thumb under your left eye.

You blink in surprise and shy away slightly, trying to smile.

You're supposed to be John Egbert.

Goofball.

Optimist.

You can't be sad.

Not now.  Not now....

But Nanna moves in and settles on your side, using her only arm to bring you in for a tight hug.

"John..."

It hurts.

She moves her arm and pats your head, running her ghostly fingers through your unruly, black hair.  You hiccup slightly, taking in shuddering breaths.

It hurts to smile.

You wipe at your eyes again, clutching your glasses tightly in one hand.

The tears won't stop.

You're such a weakling.

"John...please look at me."

You blink before slowly turning to look at Nanna. 

Instead of her unreadable gaze from before, she's smiling--tentatively with worry.  Nanna continues to look at you before bringing her hand to your left cheek once more, brushing her thumb below your eye.

She stares, light-blue eyes glowing slightly through her glasses. She inclines her head, chuckling sadly and softly, harlequin hat flopping slightly.

"....Your eyes are much too old for your handsome face, John."

You blink owlishly, tears slowly slightly.  Nanna smiles gently at you as she brushes her hand through your hair again, soothing your nerves.

"You don't need to tell Nanna anything....but it's not right to hold back your tears, John.  Emotions are meant to be released--not held in, hoohoo~!"

She drops her hand down to hold yours, grabbing your glasses from your lax grasp, setting it on the bed, before intertwining her fingers with yours.  She's warm, and you slowly stop shaking.  She let's you rest your head onto her shoulder as your tears slowly die out.  You feel tired again, emotionally drained from your dream and traveling back from the future.

Alone.

And you're scared.  You don't want to sleep again.  You don't want to see--

"I'll be here, John.  Rest."

You widen your eyes slightly before your eyes droop.  Blinking slowly, you take one last glimpse of the room before falling asleep, putting all of your weight onto her, which she doesn't mind at all.

"Sweet dreams, John. I'm here...."

==> John: Rest and be the young Texan adult a few hours ago.

Chapter Text

==> John: Rest and be the young Texan adult a few hours ago.

You are now the young Texan adult.  Also known as Bro Strider.  You will not say your age because it is confidential to the reader.  Anyways, you're Bro Strider, the guardian of your little brother, Dave Strider, who's a stoic little nutball that you love yet strife with almost daily.

Is there anything else you need to tell about yourself?

Not really.

You sit on your bed in your room. It's a bit small, messy, but you don't really care about that.  You stretch your arms out into the air, feeling a few joints pop wonderfully, rolling your shoulders slightly. You sigh softly and bring your sharp, golden-orange eyes to the side and see a little buddy of yours. You yawn.

"Mornin', Li'l Cal." F**k, I want to burn this d**n thing.

Glassy, blue eyes gaze back at you as you slid your legs off of the bed, standing up and walking towards your drawer. You pick out a white polo shirt from one of the drawers and slip it over your head--yes, you sleep shirtless because it's f***ing hot in Texas--and pick a pair of black jeans, tugging off your pj pants before switching it with your jeans.

You brush your chin, contemplating if you needed a shave, but you barely felt anything scruffy, so you shrugged before turning your attention back to Li'l Cal.  The little guy's wearing his blue t-shirt as usual, sitting where you had left him last night after your little DJ gig.

"Let's wake up the li'l man."

You see that Li'l Cal has the same mischievous glint in his eyes as you do when you pick him up. You wrap Cal's arms around your own as he bounces slightly against your back.

F**k, f**k, f**k--! Get it off...! Get the d**n demon doll off of me--!

You flashstep out of your room, being the silent, bada** ninja you always are, and stop at Dave's door. You grab the doorknob and twist it slowly and carefully. You opened the door without a sound and flashstepped into the room.

You take in Dave's room. It was a lot messier than yours, but you didn't mind too much. You step over a few wires connected to a small DJ set on the side, freezing when Dave shifted a little. You see your little bro snoozing on his bed, all tangled up in his card suit symbol blanket. You stare at your little man as he stretches on the bed, rolls over, so you can now see his face.

He's still asleep.

Aw, he's even drooling a little.  Too bad you're here to wake him up.

You can't help the small grin that's forming on your face. You untangle Li'l Cal from your back, about to prank the kid...

Oh he** no--I do not want this f**king puppet anywhere near my li'l man.

"Bro. Oh my God--don't even think about it."

Darn. You've trained Dave too well it seems.

Red eyes peer sleepily and irritatedly up at you. Dave is still bundled up in his blankets with his hair mussed up, looking very much like a kitten who's having a hissing fit.

Adorkable.

"Good morning, Sleeping Beauty."

You then proceed to make Li'l Cal--with his tiny gloved hand--lightly pap Dave on the cheek before absconding from the room.

"Bro!"

You snicker to yourself as you attach Li'l Cal to your back again.  You guess you better start breakfast.  Pancakes, bacon and eggs sound good.

~~

It was about thirty minutes by the time Dave came to the kitchen in his record-disk pjs. His shades weren't on since it was only you and Cal in the room with him.  Dave squinted his eyes as he rubbed one of them with a pale hand.

"Pancakes?"

You didn't turn around as you flipped one of the said flapjacks.

"Yep."

"Cool."

Dave dropped his hand from his face and sauntered over to the cabinets beside the refrigerator--already knowing that the swords were stored in the giant cooler--and opened one of them. There was a mini refrigerator in the cabinet, and Dave opened it, grabbing a bottle of apple juice from it. The ash-blonde unscrewed the cap and took a few sips.

You glance over at Dave and quirk a small smirk before returning your amber eyes to the pancake that's just about finished.

"Still drinking that piss?"

Dave choked slightly on the drink and sent a glare you, apple juice dribbling down his chin, squinting his red eyes at you.

"F**k you too, Bro."

You merely put on a poker face, taking the finished pancake out of the pan, setting it on an empty plate along with a few more from other pans.  Dave sighed and grabbed a few paper towels from a roll next to the sink that had fireworks in it, wiping his his spill away.

"You're such a d**k, Bro."

"Hm. That's nothing new."

You start placing bacon onto the pan and eggs into another.  Dave threw the used paper towels away in a nearby trashcan.

"Are you going to pester your boyfriend?"

Dave huffed and took a sip from his apple juice, swallowing before speaking.

"He's not a homosexual. But yeah, I'm gonna pester him today. It's his birthday."

You raise an eyebrow as you nudge the eggs around slightly in the pan with a spatula.

"Oh-ho~? The nerd's about to become a man?"

Dave scoffs, but you catch a small, fond smirk on his face.

"That dork? He'll never be a man."

"Just like you."

"Hey. Shut up."

~~

You finished breakfast while sitting in the living room on the couch. Dave didn't want to make anything awkward, so he went back to his room with his breakfast to eat alone.

And you did not feel a tinge of hurt when he left you alone to eat by yourself.

Dave did come out later, dressed in a record t-shirt and black jeans this time, carrying his dirty dishes to the sink. He washed them, rinsed them and set them in the drying wrack.  At least he wasn't being lazy today. Dishes are a pain in the a**.  Dave called out to you, hands stuffed in his pockets.

"I'll be in my room for most of the day. Gonna wish Egbert happy birthday and sh**."

You simply wave a hand over your shoulder, and you hear his footsteps recede.

Yeah.

You're definitely not feeling hurt at all.

It’s better he stays away from me.

~~

Recently you were working on a few orders from people online, but you're done with those puppets. Right now, you're bored. You think your little man is still texting his best bro or something at the moment. Maybe you could set up some traps for him if he goes out of his room.

Wait a sec....

Your computer is alerting you.

==> Bro: Go check it out.

You take a seat at on computer chair. Who the he** is pestering you? How the heck did they even get your chumhandle?

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] began pestering timeausTestified [ TT ] at 16:34 --

WH: hey! :B

What the he**...?  You slowly sit down in your computer seat and cautiously type a response back, golden-orange eyes narrowing.

TT: Who the f*** is this?  How did you get my Chumhandle?

WH: just call me heir. 

They just ignored your question.  Who the f*** is this person?

WH: and i just want to talk about your little brother.

You sit up straighter in your seat, alarm bells ringing in your head.  Dave?  Your little bro?  What would this complete stranger know?  You blink and think back for a moment--you never really mention your brother at work or anywhere in particular...

TT: What?

TT: Why?  Who the f*** are you?

TT: Are you trying to hurt him?

You don't mean to be this protective, but there's this weird strange talking about your little man...

WH: do you love your little brother?

A stranger is asking if you love your little man. What the f**k?

TT: What kind of question is that?

TT: I love the li'l man.  He's a noob, but he'll grow up.

...

Why the he** did you admit that to this person? Ugh, your mind is starting to feel...foggy again.

WH: what if i killed him?

Woah, what the f***?

TT: Then you're f***ing dead, you little piece of sh**.

WH: really?  i heard you abuse him yourself.

You tense up and glare at your screen.  Alright, despite being pissed, this person is unnerving you slightly.

TT: ...

WH: silence?

WH: wow.

Oh shut the f*** up.

TT: Just who the f*** are you?

Why are you still texting this person?!

WH: so?  you abuse him then?

You grit your teeth.  That's it.

TT: Okay, I don't know who the f*** you are, but get this.

TT: Dave's gonna kick your a** before you kick his. 

TT: I may have abused him, and he'll hate me. 

TT: But I don't give a d**n.  That way he can just forget about me if I die.  And he'll be a bada** motherf***er.

...

Well...you never thought you would admit your true feelings to a complete God d**n stranger, but you feel a slight weight lifted from your chest.  You sigh wearily and rub a hand over your face.

Dave is certainly going to be a strong motherf***er.  He'll surpass you some day, and you'll be proud of him.  You feel bad that your ties aren't very strong, but it'll be easier for Dave to not worry too much about you.  He can just...forget about you.

All in all, you love your little man.  You just hope this person doesn't--

WH: okay.  bye. :P

What?

WH: and dave actually loves you and respects you as his big brother. 

What....?

WH: you should  try and return the love.  even if you were to die, you'll make him happy.

TT: Wha

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] blocked timeausTestified [ TT ]  at 16:41 --

...

......

Oh he** no.

Oh-ho-ho~he** no....

This piece of sh** decides to pester you before absconding the f*** out of the conversation like that?  Oh~he** to the no.  You sneer at the screen for a moment, scoffing to glance off to the side to look at Cal.

"We have an a**hole on our hands apparently." You look back at your screen, inclining your head and cracking your knuckles, muttering to yourself. "I haven't hacked in a while, but this shouldn't be a problem..."

Let's see if you can get yourself unblocked and talk to this bag of d**ks again.

~~

Welp, that took a while, but you're not really complaining.  You're about to pester the stranger before noticing something rather....weird.  While hacking, you--'accidentally'--found out a few of the person's interests and the fact that they have another account on Pesterchum.

ectoBiologist....

Have you heard of this chumhandle before?

You get up from your computer chair and exit your room. Maybe you should ask Dave about this. While doing so, you think back to windybreathHeir's words.

WH: you should try and return the love.  even if you were to die, you'll make him happy.

This was something you avoided because you were scared of the possible results. You would rather have the little man hate you than get too attached to you.

What if you were to leave this world?

...

You sigh softly before entering your li'l bro's room without knocking.

"Bro, what the f***? Learn to knock, man."

"I don't need to knock since this is my place and my rules."

Dave seemed to roll his eyes slightly beneath his shades.  You keep a poker face up as you look at him.  You enter the room, standing a few feet away from Dave, and raise an eyebrow slightly at the sight of Pesterchum being open on his scree--

....

Wait a sec.  Who is he pestering?

Is that...? 

...

ectoBiologist.

Dave is pestering ectoBiologist.  The person who's supposed to be your little bro's--now you remember--friend, John Egbert.  But apparently, according to the person you've recently hacked, ectoBiologist, AKA John Egbert, is windybreathHeir.

Holy sh**.

"Um....Bro...?"

Oh.  Right.  You've been probably 'staring' at Dave for a while.  Better make up a slight excuse.  Well, not really an excuse.  You mean everything in what you're about to do and say next.

You reach over to his head and ruffle his hair.  You quirk a small smile-smirk at your little brother's shocked expression.

"Just so you know, li'l man, I'm always proud of you, 'kay?"

Then you absconded the f*** out.

...

You blame Egbert for this.  You're seriously getting soft now.  You let out a huff of a laugh under your breath when you think you heard a strangled noise of confusion coming from Dave's room, and you can't quite supress a smile of amusement.

Well....you guess you can't blame him completely.

~~

You quickly head back to your room after grabbing a bottle of orange soda from the kitchen, opening and closing the door behind yourself.  You head back to your computer, settling in your seat before starting up a conversation with Egbert.

-- timeausTestified [ TT ] began pestering windybreathHeir [ WH ] at 17:40 --

TT: Got you, you little sh**.

You can only imagine what the kid's face looks like now.

WH: uh...hey...?

Yep. He sounds scared.

TT: You motherf***er.  It annoys me that I had to hack you in order to talk to you.

Egbert doesn't respond again, so you decide to type first.

TT: Now.  I want some answers.

WH: answers?

You scoff silently to yourself, raising an eyebrow in amusement.  Ha. Egbert's got some balls.

TT: Don't play dumb.

WH: ahaha....uh....

You guess you better be a bit more threatening.

TT: My patience is dwindling to zero, Heir.

WH: omg.

WH: just

WH: dude!  you're not supposed to hack and unblock yourself!

WH: what the heck!?

Pfft--he's so frantic.

TT: That's my line you turd.

TT: You can't just block me after threatening to kill my li'l man.

TT: I'll slice you in half.

Egbert stopped responding. You hope you didn't scare the kid away.  Come back, Egbert, you little sh**.

WH: mr. strider.

You suppress a fullbody twitch as your nose scrunches slightly with distaste.  Oh he** no.

TT: Don't call me that. It makes me sound old. Call me Bro.

WH: um, okay. bro.

Good.

WH: i apologize for everything that happened earlier.

WH: that was nothing.  nothing at all.

You raise an eyebrow.  Well...this is Egbert.  But for him to come out of the blue on another account and threatening your little bro is pretty strange.

WH: i just wanted to tell you to spend time with dave before anything bad happens.

TT: ...

Huh.

WH: ?

He sounds like he's trying to tell you that you're gonna...

TT: I'm gonna die.  Aren’t I?

Ol' Windy doesn't respond for quite a while.

TT: I'm taking your silence as a yes.

WH: you aren't going to die!

Hm. Fast.

TT: Woah.  That was fast.

WH: just

WH: uuuuuuuuuuuughskskwldnxkoqiwnsks

Pfft--you apparently initiated a keyboard smash.

TT: Wow, I made someone do a keyboard smash.

WH: shoosh!  what i'm trying to say is that no one's gonna die.

Who says 'shoosh'?

TT: But my thoughts are correct?

TT: Something tells me that I am.

WH: dude.  just focus on making good, brotherly relationships with dave.

Uh, what?

WH: no one's going to die because i want to stop anything bad from happening.

You sit back in your seat at that, eyebrows creasing slightly into a frown. 'No one's going to die', he says.  Egbert 'wants to stop anything bad from happening'.  You ponder this for a moment.

What did Egbert mean?  Does he know something?  

WH: but now, i have some stuff to take care of.

WH: can we please pester each other later maybe?

What? You barely got this conversation started.

TT: What the he**.

TT: ....

You groan silently to yourself.

TT: Fine.

TT: Just so you know,

TT: I don't trust you at all.

WH: i know.

TT: But...

WH: ?

TT: I'm willing to try.

The Egbert you're currently pestering is different from what Dave tells you.  It's hard to see that such a...serious person is some sort of bubbly Ghost Buster nerd.

WH: ...

WH: thanks.

-- timeausTestified [ TT ] ceased pestering windbreathHeir [ WH ] at 17:47 --

That was the most strangest conversation you ever had. And you weren't even face to face with Egbert.

Whatever.

You turn to look behind yourself to see your little buddy Li'l Cal.  You walk over and pick him up, winding his long arms around your own so he can get a piggyback ride from you for the second time of the day.  You head out to the kitchen. 

Perhaps you should set up some traps for your little bro.

~~

You finished setting up a pile of your colorful puppets on the crawlspace hatch, shutting it so no puppets would fall out, when you heard a loud shout of frustration come from Dave's room. It became silent after a few curse words from your li'l man's room.

Your immediate, brotherly reaction would've been to check up on the adorkable knucklehead, but you sensed that nothing super bad happened.

Ping!

It was soft, but you heard your computer chime. You recognize that sound--someone's pestering you. Instead of going to your computer, you pull your phone out of your pocket and check your Pesterchum.

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] began pestering timeausTestified [ TT ] at 17:53 --

WH: hi!

What?  It's been like--you check the time at the top of your phone--six minutes.  You sigh and wander over to a nearby wall, leaning against it before your responded.

TT: Okay, when you said, 'can we please pester each other later maybe?', I thought you meant much, much later.

WH: i know, i know.

WH: but i'm just warning you a bit that dave's looking for you.

Oh-ho?

TT: Warning me? Why are you warning me?

WH: he needs your copy of sburb because he spilled his apple juice on his. please don't beat him too bad, okay?

Ah. So that explains the shouting and swearing.  And you're not going to turn your little bro into a pile of mush! But I already did. I hurt Dave so many times already. I'm a sick f**k--

TT: Yeesh, okay, mom.

WH: bluh! just be careful with dave.

WH: he's a fragile princess.

Wha--? You stiffle a chuckle. You're starting to like this Egbert-kid.

TT: Pfft--!

TT: Okay. That

TT: That was comedy gold.

TT: I'm starting to like you mysterious-person-who-won't-tell-me-their-real-name.

WH: great. but seriously, don't hurt dave. you can push him to his limits to get him to grow stronger, but don't injure him. >:T

How adorable.  A pouty face.

TT: And you made a pouty face. Cute.

TT: Alright. I'll see what I can do.

WH: thanks. :)

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] ceased pestering timeausTestified [ TT ] at 17:56 --

You think you heard the door to your little bro's room open and you pocket your phone. You quickly flashstep to the side of the kitchen with Li'l Cal still on your back.

You decide to leave your little buddy for Dave to bring up to the roof with him, so you detach Cal from your back, flashstep to your room, and set him down in the corner near your computer on top of a speaker. You swipe your shades and hat off of your nightstand and don them like a f***ing boss.  You also grab your copy of SBURB.

You can't make it easy for your li'l man to get the copy.  It'd be too boring.

You hear footsteps heading towards your room, causing you to stick close to the doorway, staying out of sight if Dave were to open it.

Click, creak...

"Hey, Bro?"

Right on cue.

Your poker face is on as you continue to stay out of view. Dave--he's wearing his aviators he got from John a few years ago--peaks his head into the room, cautiously looking around, and you smirk mentally.

Heh. He knows that you know what's going on.

Dave looks up, down, right and le--

You flashstep out of the way in time, watching on the other side of the room, not making sound.  Dave grunts, a small frown on his face as he enters the room.

He didn't see you.

"Bro....?"

Yes, Dave?  Don't worry, I'm here--in the shadows, waiting to kick your a--

WH: great. but seriously, don't hurt dave. you can push him to his limits to get him to grow stronger, but don't injure him. >:T

You frown to yourself at the memory of Egbert's typed words.

Gosh darn brat and his pacifist cr**.  You're not going to seriously injure Dave!

I already have. I hurt my little bro so much--

Dave turns his head again and you have to flashstep out of sight once more.  Your little man still needs a few more months, maybe, to adjust to your speed.  Dave mutters something under his breath as he steps into your room, looking back over to your computer, causing you to flashstep out of the way once more.  The teen walks over to your computer desk.

He may look like he's walking casually, but you know The Strider Walk.

The Strider Walk is meant to look casual and normal, but you see the slight bend in the knees with each step, ready to move quickly if needed.  And Dave's arms are relaxed at the side--not because he feels safe--but to be ready to go with the flow of an attack before retaliating.

D**n.

You're so proud of your little man.

Dave makes it to your computer and--wow.  He's trying to get into your computer when he doesn't know the password.

Dork.

You see him fist-bump Li'l Cal.

Yay.  Little Davey gets Strider Points. No, Dave. Destroy Cal. God d**n it!

Dave gets back to searching your room for the SBURB copy that you have in your hand right now. He even searches under your bed. Yeesh, give a guy some privacy, will ya'?  Dave is growing restless, causing you to raise an eyebrow. Does he need it that badly?

You wonder how windybreathHeir, or Egbert, is doing at the moment. What you've heard about this game is that the world goes to sh** once it's started.

Is Egbert dead? 

Geh. You're getting too deep into your thoughts.

You flashstep out of the room, making sure to make a bit of noise to grab Dave's attention.

"Bro?"

Yep. He heard you. C'mon, Dave, follow your big bro out into the kitchen...

"God d**n it, Bro."

You enter the kitchen, still keeping yourself hidden as you waited for Dave to follow you.  You go to the blindspot of the doorway when Dave enters the kitchen, his movements much more tense and quick.

"F***ing Bro...."

You watch as Dave cautiously enters the kitchen area. When he's farther from the door, you silently flashstep out of the kitchen and back to your room. You grab Cal, check your computer for any messages before locking it again, and head back to the kitchen.

Dave is looking through the refrigerator, captchalogging a few swords, when you get back. You set Cal down onto the counter before Dave turns around to look.

"Br--holy sh**. Cal." Dave clutches his chest slightly, as if he had a heart attack. "What the f*** man. I thought we were good bros."

Dave, get rid of Cal, d**n it! Throw him in the f**king garbage disposal or something!

You raise an amused eyebrow as you hid behind the kitchen door slightly. Dave inspects Cal for a moment before moving through the rest of the kitchen.

Dave checks the ice maker and gets a bunch of cherry bombs. You forgot to empty the darn thing....oh well.  A few minutes later, Dave is tearing up some of your colorful puppets in the drain garbage disposal.

Aw man....you put so much work into those...

Dave seems to have caught your little message on the crawlspace door in the reflection on the sink. Your little bro lifts his gaze to look up and squints at the red letters that were there.  Dave's too short to reach the string to pull the crawlspace door open, so he goes to your room--what the f*** Dave--and brings your DJ set to stand on to reach the door.

Dave reaches out to grab the cord connected to the door. You watch with bated breath.

Oh my God. He's really gonna do it.

Click.

The door unlatched aaaaand~

Thump, thump!

"F--! What the he**!?"

You grin to yourself when Dave gets buried under puppet a**.  Your little man's voice is muffled now, but you can still hear him.

"I should've known."

Yep, Dave. You should've known.

You scribble a quick message, toss it into the air, before nailing it against the crawlspace hatch with a Batarang.  With that, you flashstep out of the room, grabbing your favorite katana before heading to the rooftop.

It's about d**n time you had a beatdown with Dave.

F**k...Dave, don’t you ever let your guard down around me. Please...be careful and watch your a**.

==> Bro: Be your adorkable little brother a few hours ago.

Chapter Text

PSYCH!

You are not going to be the adorkable little brother! HAHAHA, JOKE'S ON YOU! It would take too much time to write his point of view because we already read Bro's point of view!  And Striders think quite similarly to each other.  Anyways....

==> John: Wake up.

==> Reader: Switch to third person.

Blue eyes slowly flutter open, out of the corner of his eye, he can see the comforting, neon-blue glow of Nannasprite. When John raises his gaze up, he can see her bright smile.

"Hoo, hoo~! Good morning, John!"

John manages a shy smile, moving his hand around for his glasses.  He slipped them on, taking a deep breath, trying to ignore the puffy feeling of his eyes.

"Mornin', Nanna. And thanks for letting me sleep on your shoulder. Sorry for being such a bother."

"Not a bother at all, my dear boy! Now, I still have those chocolate chip cookies I baked you a few hours ago."

John smiles, sitting up while rubbing his head anxiously.

"Uh, thanks."

"I'll be back soon, dearie~hoohoo~!"

John takes the time to study his room as Nanna phases through a wall.

Ping!

Oh! Someone was pestering him.

-- tentacleTherapist [ TT ] began pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 22:13 --

TT: Good morning, John.  I hope you had a peaceful rest.

John rubbed the back of his head and sighed, pushing his glasses up slightly.

EB: thanks, rose.  my little nap was fine.  no nightmares.

TT: I see...

TT: Do you wish to tell me anything that you might be feeling right now?

John stood up from his bed on slightly shaky legs, stretching to feel some of his joints pop wonderfully.

EB: well...a little groggy and emotionally drained.  but other than that, i'm good.

TT: That's good to hear.  Do you think you're up for today's events?

John smiled a bit as he looked at her words.  He was happy that she wasn't pushing him to gain answers for herself.  Bless her dear soul when she's not doing her creepy black magic.

EB: sure.  we're building up my house or something, right?

TT: Yes. And do be careful. There have been...imps--I believe--approaching your house. I've been keeping them away from you while you slept with some of your household objects. Apologies.

EB: it's fine, rose! thanks for keeping me safe. :B

EB: i'll get to work now.

John lifted his gaze up in time to see Nanna come floating in, carrying a plate of ghostly cookies. The ravenet stared at the glowing, blue cookies with slight bafflement.

"Have a bite, John! They are still warm and they'll help you regain your strength, hoohoo~!"

John blinked before he picked one up, taking a small bite. Immediately, he was hit with the warm, chocolatey taste of the cookie. He hummed in appreciation before he finished the cookie in a few quick bites, feeling his energy returning to him. He smiled at Nanna.

"Thank you, Nanna. Could you please save some for later?"

"Oh course, my dear~! Stay safe now. I'll provide assistance."

John gave his signature bucktoothed grin at her before heading out of his room, he quickly equipped his old pogo-hammer.

==> John: Crush your enemies!

~~

John took a step outside of his house checking the area with his sharp, blue eyes. He shouldered his hammer as he took the staircase that Rose had built with the small amount of grist they currently had. Once he got on the very top of his house, he saw that there already were a few ogres--three of them--waiting for him.  John grinned at this.

"Alright, here we go," John then muttered under his breath. "Again."

Before the ogres could notice his existence, John dashed forward, pogo-hammer trailing behind him.  He brought his hammer down onto the ground to bounce off, launching himself into the air towards one of the ogres that were present.

"Booyah!"

Smack!

The ogre groaned as he was sent flying cleanly off of the roof.  The ogre burst into grist when he met the ground.  John paused as he landed on the ground, blinking as he glanced down at his hammer.

'The he**?  I'm not using a strong hammer.  Too much strength into the swing then?' The ravenet felt the rooftop shake as the two other ogres stomped towards him from behind. 'Oh well.  I should probably test this out.'

John spun around as he smacked his hammer onto the rooftop again, bouncing into the air to bring his hammer down once more.  However, John no longer had the element of surprise with him.  An ogre, with a tire-swing, swung his choice of weapon at John's head at a frightening speed.

...

But John has witnessed faster attacks than this.

John's eyes glowed blue for a brief second, using his windy powers to push him out of the way of the attack.  It was only a slight push, so it wouldn't look too strange from Rose's point of view.  Once the Heir was safe, he quickly swung his hammer again, using less strength this time to test his theory.

This time, the ogre seemed to be stunned by John's blow, reminding the ravenet of his first fight.  The Heir nodded to himself, humming thoughtfully as he quickly followed up, delivering another blow to the ogre so it could burst into grist like the first ogre.

'Alright, that should be the right amount of strength I should use then to avoid suspicion.  Although Rose is gonna catch on soon...'

John was snapped out of his musings when a large fist went flying towards him, his 13 year-old body was puny-looking compared to the balled up hand.  '

Gog d**n, I forgot about the third ogre,' He thought with a mental groan.  The ravenet quickly braced his pogo-hammer in front of his body, preparing for impact.

Suddenly, there was a flash of neon-blue light coming from the side, blasting the ogre away.  Nanna came drifting in with a slightly smoking and glowing oven by her side.  The blue sprite laughed brightly as she floated over to him, gently ruffling his hair.

"Hoohoo!  Do pay attention, dear John~!"

John smiled gratefully and high-fived her floating hand in return.

"Thanks, Nanna." 'That was way too careless of me.  I need to focus.'

He then turned his attention back to his opponents.  More imps and ogres were crawling onto the roof.  John huffed and shouldered his pogo-hammer, ignoring the oily goop that was dripping from the head of his weapon.  John slowly got into a fighting stance, hammer swung down to be leveled in front of his body.  His eyes flashed blue, yellow, green and red for a second before fading back to a sky-blue color, a smile on his lips.

"Bring it on."

==> Reader: See how Rose is doing.

Rose is currently watching her computer screen, still sitting in the mausoleum of her pet cat, Jasper.  She should be building John's house up with all the grist he's collecting, but the scenes that are playing on her screen.

It...it was hard to believe what she is seeing.  John is moving with an incredible grace that she never knew he ever had before.  When he fights, it's like he had done it for a long, long time.  But despite all of this...it looked...it looked like John was holding back.  

Rose blinked and slowly shook her head to dispel the jumbled thoughts in her mind.  She had to focus now--for John's sake.  Rose had felt a little--well, maybe very--concerned for John.  The ravenet might not see it, but Rose can.  John looked...lost.  No, 'lost' wasn't the right answer.  Rose brought her attention back to her screen again, lavender eyes watching as John landed safely on the rooftop again, collecting more grist from defeated ogres and imps.

John was...tired.  Yes, he was tired.  Lightning flashed outside, illuminating the mausoleum for a brief second before the light faded and the glow of the computer was the only thing lighting up the small building.  Rose watched as John turned his head slightly to look at his Nanna, getting a good look of his face.  There were slight bags under his eyes, and it reminded Rose of his nightmare hours ago.

That was not a pleasant memory.  Watching John mutter and cry apologies in his sleep, tears dripping down his cheeks into the pillow of his bed and then suddenly grow deathly still.  Rose wasn't sure if John was alive for a heart-stopping second before John shot up, reaching for his pogo-hammer--but then he stopped, seeming to...realize where he was.  John had taken deep breaths to calm himself before responding to Rose's messages.

Rose could see that something--something big--had changed John.  John...no matter what he had said in his messages...he had changed.  He wasn't the 13 year-old ghost-loving kid Rose knew.  But he was still John; a John she didn't know

John, Rose felt, was certainly different.  But...she still felt--something deep in her heart--that this John could be trusted with her life.  Even if he--most likely--lied to Rose a couple of time, she felt she could still trust him.

Whatever John was thinking, Rose knew she must help him.  She needed to talk to him, tell him that she knew something was up.  Rose gazed at her screen for a moment before sighing, glancing over the stone table to look at the dressed body of Jaspers.

"Jaspers...what do you think?"

...

Silence.  Of course.  Rose sighed once more.  The dead cat wouldn't have been any help anyways.  Rose tapped a thin finger lightly on the stone slab her laptop was on, her lavender eyes watching John defeat another ogre.  She then curled her fingers, fisting it lightly when she caught sight of tired--but they were filled with excitement from the battle--blue eyes when John turned his head at a certain angle.

She would talk to John about what's truly going on.  Rose may need to get nosey, but John is her friend.  If she must get nosey to help John, then she'll do it.  But now...Rose knew that John needed her to assist him.  So, Rose built John's house up, helping when she could by using her curser to pick up some random, nearby objects imps and smack them off of the house.

~~

==> Reader: See what John is doing an hour later.

John is currently resting in a copy of his own bedroom, which had been built with grist.  He had asked Rose to also bring his desk and computer up so he could pester some people on there.  Rose continued to build up the house while John began to pester Dave.

-- ectoBiologist [ EB ] began pestering turntechGodhead [ TG ] at 1:13 --

EB: dave!

EB: daaaaaaaave!

EB: dave, dave, dave, dave, dave, dave, dave, dave!

EB: ...

EB: did you get your a** handed to you that badly?

TG: jfc egbert

TG: and no i didnt get my a** handed to me

TG: i was the one who did the a** handing

EB: haha!  that bad, huh? :B

TG: stfu egbert

TG: id like to see you do better against bro with your sh*tty hammer because i bet you wouldnt be able to do sh** against him

TG: the dudes a gog d**n fighting machine

TG: i actually wouldnt be surprised if he was a robot this entire time

TG: he** how does he even stay on that rocket board of his

TG: magnetic magic or some sh**

EB: dave.

EB: you're just salty. :B

TG: salty

TG: not salty just

TG: just completely tenderized by bro

TG: practically put me on a fire and cooked me to medium rare

TG: enjoy my meaty defeat egbert

EB: haha!

EB: anyways...did you get the beta?

TG: yeah and funny weird thing is is that bro kinda

TG: patched me up afterwards

EB: d'aaaaaaaawwwwwwww!

TG: jegus egbert this is not something to swoon about like a girl with the f**king vapors its weird and just

TG: okay i know you said i should open up to bro a little more

EB: and you should.

TG: ...

EB: i think he's just...unsure of how to care for you.  i mean, have you ever thought that maybe he's never experienced what it's like to have a family guardian-figure?  he probably wants the best for you, but he doesn't know how to do it.

John looked over his words and face-palmed slightly.  Maybe he had said too much.  And speaking of Bro/Beta-Dirk...a guardian-figure.  Isn't there an adult Dave that had supposedly took care of Alpha-Dirk for a moment?  Maybe...maybe John could message him--Alpha-Dave.  The ravenet widened his eyes at the thought.  Perhaps this way, he could prepare more people for the fight against Calib--no.

John fisted his hands on his desk before lowering his head a bit to rest his forehead on the cool surface.  He--it would be selfish of him to bring someone else into this fight.  This was John's fight.  He couldn't afford to make Dirk's Bro to sacrifice his life in the final battle.  John sighed when he heard his computer ping, lifting his head.

Still, John could warn Alpha-Dave--actually, let's call Alpha-Dave, D, for short--about the Condesce.  He nodded to himself mentally.  Yes, he could save a few lives instead of ask them for help against Lord English.  John, with that thought in mind, looked back up to read what Dave had messaged him about.

TG: john what happened

Said ravenet blinked at the words, inclining his head slightly, bitting his lower lip slightly with worry.

EB: what do you mean? :B

TG: dont bullsh** me john

TG: ive known you for YEARS and im p sure i can tell when youre

TG: ...

TG: when youre acting different

Oh gog, Dave was onto John... 

The Heir fisted a hand slightly on his desk as he stared at the red letters on his screen.  He felt a tremor go through his body as he took a shuddering breath.

"...Heh...hehehe...hehahahaha!"

Who was laughing?  Why--oh.  John clapped a hand over his mouth, shoulders shaking and tears starting to prick the corner of his eyes.  It was sick--he felt sick--to be laughing at this, but it--it was just so ridiculous

John, you're acting different.

John, you're being strange.

John, what's wrong?

What was wrong, indeed.  John laughed bitterly as he covered his eyes with a shaky hand.  John couldn't tell about the future--it would burden them, his friends and family, and they don't deserve to be burdened in the first place.  John stared at his desk with glassy eyes, ignoring the fact that a few tears landed on his glasses.

God, he was so f**ked up.  John let out another sad chuckle, realizing now that...that he took away their John.  John from the future didn't belong here, and he forced his past-self out of his body--probably killing his own self.  God, the situation was so f**ked up...

Ping!

John tiredly brought his gaze up to his computer screen.

TG: you havent responded so

TG: im sorry if i offended you

TG: jegus im just kinda concerned with you

TG: i mean i care about you youre my best bro and best bros look out for each other

John's hands hovered over the keyboard, hesitant to respond, eyes still a little blurry with tears.  How was he supposed to respond?  He took a deep breath and smiled a bit.

EB: yeah.  okay.

EB: i'll...i'll be honest with you.

John bit his lip for a moment.  However, he was biting down too hard, tasting a tinge of copper before he let go of his abused lip.

EB: i had a nightmare.

TG: oh sh** was it bad i mean of course it was bad

TG: do you think you could tell me about it

EB: so...um, in simple terms...we were in this...sandy place.

TG: like rose me jade and you were somewhere

EB: uh, yeah.

EB: there was....there was this big evil guy.  i tried to...protect you.

John chokes up on himself slightly, trying not to remember the warmth that was disappearing from the bodies of his friends.  His fingers shook as he typed something before deleting it quickly.  He took a deep breath, holding back his tears.

Finally, John calmed himself to finish his dream in a clipped way.

EB: and...we died.

Dave didn't respond for the longest time.  John thought that the blonde had given up on him or something before red text appeared on his screen once more.

TG: but were still here

John blinked, and stared at the words in confusion.

EB: huh?

TG: im here roses here jades here

TG: were all still ALIVE and HERE for you john

John blinked and stared at the red letters.

TG: you dont have to do things on your own i mean were all practically family with each other we all have each others backs

TG: were here for you john

John blinked...and blinked again, a chuckle slipping from his lips.  But it was less hysterical and more...happy?  Hopeful?  Gosh, hope was such a fragile thing at the moment, but hey, John needed it.  He needed this: this support.

EB: dave...

EB: thank you.

EB: hehe, i feel refreshed now!

Ping!

John blinked in mild surprise because Dave hadn't responded.  The ravenet went back to the main PesterChum page and stared in slight surprise.

"E-Egbert...!" A raspy voice growled at the said ravenet, red irises surrounded by yellow glared up at bright blue eyes. "Don't you...dare...lose against...this n**k-licking piece of sh**." Of course he was talking about Lord English.  He never did give a sh** about people stronger than him.

John's lower lip trembled slightly as he responded, trying to gently cradle the dying, bleeding body in his arms.

"I-I won't...K--"

"--arkat..." John breathed, starting at the PesterChum screen with wide eyes.  Slowly, the ravenet grinned, blue eyes gleaming with excitement before turning his gaze back to his conversation with Dave.

EB: hehe!  something magical is happening! :B

EB: i'll get back to you later, dave.  is that alright?

TG: cool beans bro

TG: tell me about it later and john

EB: yeah?

TG: well always be there for you

A genuine smile spread across John's lips.  He felt lighter than he had in a while...

EB: heh, thanks. :)

-- ectoBiologist [ EB ] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [ TG ] at 1:38 --

John then turned his attention to the incoming troll.  But then he paused slightly, tilting his head a bit.  When was the first time Karkat contacted him?  No, better yet, was he the first troll he talked with in the original timeline?  John lifted an eyebrow and opened up the chat box, noting with surprise that Karkat was messaging his alternate chat handle.

-- carcinoGeneticist [ CG ] began trolling windybreathHeir [ WH ] at 1:40 --

CG: EGBERT.  WE HAVE A F**K TON OF THINGS TO TALK ABOUT.

WH: apparently you know me, but i have no clue what's going on.

CG: WHAT.

CG: F**K, OKAY.  THIS MUST BE THE FIRST TALK WE'VE EVER HAD.  SH**!  BUT YOU...YOU KNOW WHO I AM, DON'T YOU?

John stared at his screen for the longest time and groaned softly.  For him, this was the very first conversation they ever had.  To Karkat, apparently, this was the nth time.  The ravenet will have to try and sort things out with the red-blooded troll.

WH: first of all, how...how much do you know?

CG: ...I KNOW ABOUT THE FATA** CHERUB CALI-F**K.

John stiffened before he snickered lightly at the nickname, feeling a bit at home.  Even if this wasn't the Karkat he befriended in the first timeline, he was still one of his best troll friends.

WH: a little bold, aren't you, karkat? :D

CG: YOU'RE A STUPID PIECE OF SH**, EGBERT.  YOU'RE LUCKY I PITIED YOU SO MUCH TO HELP YOU.

John rolled his eyes slightly, chuckling softly.  The ravenet then frowned in mild confusion.

He was going to ask for help from Karkat in the future?  He didn't want to drag the poor troll into his problems...

WH: i see...but then...you should understand that this is my first conversation with you to be honest.

CG: GUH, F**K.  ANYWAYS, IT DOESN'T MATTER SINCE WE HAVE A LOT MORE IMPORTANT SH** TO DISCUSS.

WH: wait, first of all, how did we meet?  and how do you know about this chat handle?

CG: UGH, SERIOUSLY EGBERT, BUT FINE, I'LL TELL YOU.  MY FIRST CONVERSATION WITH YOU...YOU WERE ALREADY IN GOD TIER FORM.  AND AT THAT TIME, I HAD NO IDEA YOU WE'RE...FROM A TIMELINE WHERE THINGS WENT TO SH**.  AND, GOG, I WAS SO F**KING STUPID BACK THEN, SERIOUSLY!  ANYWAYS, THAT WAS THE FIRST TIME.  YOU WERE ALSO APPARENTLY IN THE SH**TY LOHAC.

John blinked and processed the words, humming thoughtfully.  The ravenet then sensed something enter his room.  He quietly turned to glance over his shoulder to see a few imps trying to mess with his posters.

"Hey," His voice cold and frigid, causing the imps to freeze in place. "If you know what's good for you...you wouldn't do what you're about to do right now."

The imps, in their colorful clothes, glanced at each other before looking back at the slightly glowing, blue eyes with fear.  They soon slinked out of the room, gibbering among each other.  John sighed once they left before turning his attention back to his screen.

CG: WOW.  YOU'RE SCARY AND AUTHORITATIVE WHEN YOU WANT TO BE. 

John lifted an eyebrow at that and chuckled to himself.  He had almost forgotten about how the trolls' computers work.

WH: heh, really?  sorry about that.

CG: UGH, DON'T SAY THAT.

WH: what?  'sorry'? :B

CG: YEAH, THAT.  YOU SAY IT TOO MUCH.  IT'S TIME YOU JUST STOP APOLOGIZING.  YOU SAY IT THAT MUCH THAT I'M TEMPTED TO OFF MYSELF AND THEN STRANGLE YOU!  AND EVERYTHING WILL BE JUST GOG D**N PERFECT! 

CG: YOU SAY IT A LOT IN OTHER CONVERSATIONS BEFORE THIS ONE.  SO WHY DON'T YOU LAY OFF THE APOLOGIES FROM HERE.

John blinked in surprise.  He then smiled wearily at his screen.  The ravenet looked up into the air a bit, knowing that Karkat was watching him through grub computer. 

WH: heh, i dunno, karkat.  i guess...i just wished we had a happier ending than this.

CG: THAT'S ALSO SOMETHING I WANTED TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT!  WHAT WAS I LIKE IN YOUR TIMELINE?

WH: a fearless a**hole. :B

CG: HARHAR, EGBERT.  I'M LAUGHING SARCASTICALLY IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW, YOU N**K-SNIFFER!  ANYWAYS YOU LITTLE SH**, I WANTED TO ASK YOU HOW WE'RE PLANNING TO TAKE CARE OF LORD ENGLISH?

John paused a bit, eyes widening.

WH: 'we'?

CG: UGH, THIS IS OUR FIRST CONVERSATION, SO I'LL HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS SH**, HUH?  EGBERT, F**K YOU AND YOU WANTING TO DO THIS ALONE BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT.  BEFORE YOU SAY THAT I DON'T DESERVE BEING BURDENED WITH FIGHTING LORD ENGLISH LIKE SOME SORT OF SH**TY MARTYR, HEAR ME OUT.

CG: I MAY NOT BE THE KARKAT YOU KNEW IN THAT TIMELINE, BUT I'M NOT JUST GONNA SIT BACK ON MY A** AND ACT LIKE A F**KING GRUB IN DISTRESS!  YOU'VE GOT ANOTHER THING COMING IF YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING THIS ALONE!

John was speechless, staring at his screen.  Before he could type any protests, the gray color of the red-blooded troll's text was filling up the screen again.

CG: I'VE ALREADY HAD THIS CONVERSATION WITH YOU MULTIPLE TIMES, YOU STUBBORN A**.  YOU JUST NEED TO LEARN TO ACCEPT HELP FROM YOUR PITY-FRIENDS.

CG: AND YOU KNOW WHAT, I DON'T NEED YOUR F**KING CONSENT TO HELP YOU.  I'LL DO IT ANWAYS BECAUSE WER'E FRIENDS, YOU LITTLE SH**!

CG: YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT!  I DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU.  F**K YOU EGBERT!  I'M HELPING YOU EVEN IF YOU DON'T WANT MY HELP!

John stared at his screen for a moment, mouth forming a grim line.

WH: ...

WH: i...

WH: i just don't want to lose everyone again.

CG: AND YOU WON'T BECAUSE WE'LL ALL BE PREPARED FOR THIS.  DIDN'T STRIDER TELL YOU THAT YOUR FRIENDS ARE WITH YOU ALL THE WAY?  YOU'RE REALLY A STUBBORN PIECE OF SH**, EGBERT.

CG: BE SMART FOR AT LEAST ONE F**KING DAY, EGBERT.  I WON'T HESITATE IN FINDING YOU IF I HAVE TO.  I'LL SLAP YOU F**KING SILLY!  SO OPEN YOUR F**KING EYES--YOU AREN'T DOING THIS ALONE, YOU BAG OF B**GES!  

John took a deep breath, running a hand through his hair, chucking airily.  Today had been a rollercoaster of emotions.  John shook his head and took a deep breath before releasing it.

WH: okay.  just, okay. 

WH: looks like i can't stop you from helping me, karkat.  but i think this might not be the best time to tell me what we're planning.  right now...i was thinking of already contacting our future friends.

CG: YOU'VE TOLD ME ABOUT THAT BEFORE.  OTHER HUMANS MADE FROM THE SCRATCH OR SOMETHING, YEAH?  ANYWAYS, I'M SUPPOSED TO SEND YOU THE CODE OF MY GRUB COMPUTER SO YOU CAN CONTACT THOSE SH**S IN THE FUTURE.  HERE.

CG: V4Nt42

WH: hey, it's your last name!

CG: YEAH, YEAH.  JUST MAKE IT WITH A CRUXITE DOWEL AND SOME OF YOUR PITIFUL AMOUNT OF GRIST.  IT SHOULDN'T TAKE THAT LONG.

WH: thanks!  beepbeep meow! :B

CG: YOU ALREADY USED THAT JOKE, EGBERT.

WH: darn.  anyways, thanks for the help.  i'll...i'll try to ask help from others, i guess, heh.

CG: YOU BETTER.  I THINK, IF I'M TELLING YOU THIS NOW, YOU'LL BE A LITTLE MORE ACCEPTING TO ASKING FOR HELP, YOU STUBBORN SH**.  I'LL CONTACT YOU AGAIN ONCE YOU GO THROUGH THE FIRST GATE.  YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO EXPLORE LOWAS ONCE YOU GET THROUGH THERE.

WH: question.  have i already contacted vriska yet?

CG: PSH, THAT SPIDER-B***H?  NOT ONLY HER, YOU CONTACTED ALL OF THE TROLLS SO WE COULD 'LIVE PEACEFULLY' WITH EACH OTHER.

CG: ...YOU REALLY TALKED SOME SENSE INTO THEM. 

John hummed thoughtfully at that.  If he could recall correctly, Karkat had trouble on the meteor.  The Heir frowned--he'll have to think about how to help with the more violent trolls.  He'll be able to save a few more lives that way.  John returned his gaze to his screen.

CG: DID YOU...

CG: DID YOU REALLY FIGHT THE SH**TY CHERUB FOR FOUR YEARS?

John blinked and sighed deeply.  When he did open the door and step through, they were all brought to the sandy lands.  Vriska was dead when they found her body.  Less than half of the ghost army was still there, fighting against Lord English.  The first fight against Lord English was not a good one, with too many losses on the human-troll side, they had to retreat.  The same thing happened over the four years until Lord English got tired of their 'game' and came to slaughter everyone.  But...among those four years, John got to learn a bit more about everyone.

John lifted his gaze to the screen.

WH: yes.  we fought him.  but...i was able to learn a lot about everyone, who were both dead and alive.  you know, ghosts and those who were still alive.  haha, even eridan tried to date me, lol.

CG: UGH, THAT'S F**KING DISGUSTING.  NO WONDER ERIDAN LISTENS TO YOU SO MUCH THOUGH, PROCLAIMING 'JOHN IS COUNTING ON ME' LIKE A GOG D**N BLITHERING FECULENT SH**HOLE.

John rasied an eyebrow at that.  Apparently in order to get Eridan on their side, he will have to get a bit creative.  In all honesty, Eridan was just a lonely troll who couldn't find any love.  John sighed, feeling a bit weary as he grinned tiredly at his screen.

WH: i see...anyways, see you soon, karkat.

CG: WHATEVER.  IGNORE WHAT MY PAST SELVES SAY TO YOU.  KEEP YOUR A** SAFE, EGBERT.

-- carcinoGeneticist [ CG ] ceased trolling windybreathHeir [ WH ] at 2:03 --

John then got up from his seat, recalling the code Karkat gave to him.

~~

John gazed at the grub computer he had recently alchemized, sitting on his bed in his room.  He opened it up and messed around a bit with the controls.  He finally opened the troll chat box.  He leaned back against the wall behind him, frowning thoughtfully.  How was he supposed to contact Dirk, Jake, Roxy and Jane?  Didn't the Scratch have to happen in order for this to work?

John rubbed his forehead before widening his eyes.  His powers!  He had control over Time, Light and Space!  Surely he could do something with them!

John quickly crossed his legs, setting the grub-computer on the side.  He wasn't sure how he could do this, but he could try and...reach out towards his powers?  The Heir closed his eyes, taking a deep breath.

The noise outside was soon drowned out.  He felt like he was floating, which was strange since he was in his room after all.  John felt a warm sensation on his forehead, arm and chest--where his Light, Space and Time tattoos should be--

"...John?"

The ravenet gasped and snapped his eyes open, feeling the ground beneath him once more.  That voice--that was Rose's!  But wasn't she currently at her own home, building up his house?  Wha--

"Oh my gosh, John!" Another, very familiar, voice squealed.  John grunted when arms wrapped around his shoulders--pale arms, covered in black silk.  The ravenet tried to turn his head before flinching when white dog ears flickered against his cheek.

...Wait...white...dog ears?

John stared at the person who had hugged him.  He raised his arms shakily to the sobbing form that was hugging him.

"J...Jade?  I mean, are y--?"

The said girl raised her head to look tearily at John.

"Oh John, you looked so sad!  We all just wanted to give you hugs!  We were so glad when the other Dave and Karkat started talking to you though!  I mean, Karkat is being so nice to you in this timeline!  It's strange, but it improved your mental sta--"

"W-Wait, Jade, I thought you were...de...ad..." John finally lifted his gaze from his biological sister to the two blondes standing--floating--behind her. "...R...Rose....?  Dave?" He croaked. "Oh...please...please tell me this isn't a dream--f**k, I--!"

He was then smothered by hugs in a blur of red and orange.  John started to cry and laugh at the same time, his thoughts in a jumbled mess as he tried to pull everyone in closer to him, tears streaming from his blue eyes, too scared to close them incase his friends would disappear.

It took a good handful of minutes before John calmed down, eyes puffy and wet as he slowed his tears, bringing his hands up to rub at the drying tear tracks.

"I, haha, oh my God, how are you guys--!?"

Dave rubbed at his eyes, pushing his shades up--the b*****d was definitely crying-- before stuffing his hands into his red God Tier pants.  He smirked a bit, tilting his head slightly to direct John's attention to the world around him.

"Dunno what happened really, Egderp, but it looks like a part of us went with you when we handed ya' our powers."

John took the time to finally look at his surroundings.  They were apparently on some sort of island, a slab of blue rock.  A glowing tree--it reminded John of the ones on LOWAS--grew in the center of the island.  Fireflies drifted lazily around the area. 

However, what caught John's attention the most was the three other islands surrounds his.  Lava bubbled and popped on the right side of his island, glowing brightly but not burning.  John brought his attention to the floating gears the clanked out a beat, ticking away and surrounding an island of volcanic glass. 

In front of John's island was a land that seemed to be constantly raining, but it was shinning brightly, pink, yellow and blue light glimmering across the sea that was there.  An island of pure, white sand sat in the distance, water sloshing against its shores gently. 

John finally looked to the left, where the water looked like pure space, stars moving within the blue-purple darkness.  An island covered in snow floated above the galaxy, ice lightly coating the waters surrounding the small piece of land.  John blinked and stared at the place he was in.

"...Uh, does meditation kill you or something?  'Cause I think I just died and went into a dream bubble."

Rose chuckled softly and gently ran a hand through John's raven locks in a comforting manner.

"No, John, you are very much alive.  And we are very proud of you for doing this for us."

John teared up slightly again.  This time, Jade held him closer, nuzzling her face into his hair.

"Don't worry, John!  Now that you know we're here, you know that you're not alone now!"

John smiled and shut his eyes, feeling warmth from his friends.

"Thank you.  Just, God d**n, I..." John fell back slightly onto his back, laughing brightly. "This is just amazing..."

Jade squealed and also flopped onto her back next to him.  Dave rolled his eyes behind his shades before doing the same.  Rose laid back also, lacing her fingers over her stomach.  All four of them watched the fireflies blink lazily across the dark sky.

"....Guys," John murmured, breaking the silence. "I need help with using your powers."

Dave waved a hand lazily into the air before flopping it back onto the ground.

"Yup, we know that.  We were kinda watching what was happening through your head for pretty much the entire time.  And, uh...we kinda watched you break down a few times....and we honestly tried to stop your nightmares from getting to you, yeah..."

John shrugged slightly, sighing a bit.

"Heh, yeah, that was embarrassing."

Jade swatted at him, dog ears twitching.

"No, it's not embarrassing!  You...you went through a lot, John, and no one can say you shouldn't let your emotions out."

John grinned weakly at that before nodding slightly.

"So...I want to contact our buddies in the future.  Any ideas?"

Everyone looked at Rose, who chuckled.  She was always the one to plan ahead.  She's a Seer of Light after all.

"Of course..." Rose sat up, legs folded a bit underneath her as she continued. "You were on the right track, John, using all of our powers combined for this.  With my powers as a Seer, perhaps I can find a timeline where the Scratch is successful and complete.  Then, with the use of Dave and Jade's powers, we can find a connection to everyone's computers or any mobile device really."

John's eyes sparkled comically as he sat up to look at Rose.

"You're so awesome, Rose!"

The Seer merely giggled and playfully batted her eyelashes at John.

"I try, John dear."

Dave made mock gagging noises on the ground as he rolled onto his stomach.  Jade immediately hopped to her feet, stretching before turning to her companions.

"Well, what are we waiting for?  Let's get to it!"

~~

John snapped his eyes open, a smile tugging at his lips.  He was about to slide off of his bed before a voice popped up beside him.

{Geez, this place is a mess.}

The ravenet blinked and turned his head slightly to see a transparent Dave floating next to him, still dressed in his Time God Tier clothes.  John wisely kept his mouth shut as he spoke mentally.

'Dave?  I can...see you?'

The ghostly blonde shrugged.

{Oh yeah, I got bored in your mind.  So now I'm just gonna haunt ya' and journey with ya'.  It looked like you needed the company too...}

{Oh, stop stealing the limelight, Dave!}

A transparent Jade appeared next to the blonde, shoving at him playfully.  Rose also appeared, hands settled on her lap as she floated while seeming to sit on nothing.

{We shall accompany you on your journey.} Her smile softened. {And I am quite thankful that you can now see us.  We have always been by your side, but you haven't got to see us until you reached out towards our powers to truly connect with them.}

John nodded in understanding before snapping to attention.  Turning to his new grub-computer.

'Okay, guys, let's get to work.'

Rose placed a hand onto his shoulder as his eyes glowed golden.  Images flashed across his vision before he finally caught sight of him completing the Scratch.  He then took ahold of that timeline and watched as more images passed his gaze.  Finally, finally, he could see Dirk, Jake, Roxy and Jane, but they all looked like they were 13 years old...  Dave and Jade drifted next to him and placed their hand onto his shoulder and back respectively; John's eyes mixed between colors of red, green and gold.  Then he felt something click into place before everyone relaxed.

John's blue eyes darted around his screen, finally able to see each of the Alpha-kids' timelines.  He laughed brightly.

'We did it!'

Dave snorted softly and lightly patted John's hair.

{Cool, now see if it actually works.}

John nodded to himself and opened up a chat box with one of the Alpha-kids.

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] began pestering golgothasTerror [ GT ] at ??:?? --

WH: hello! :D

GT: Goodness! Who is this?

GT: I dont recall ever giving my chumhandle to a fellow like you.

John smiled in amusement.  He could practically hear the British accent in the other's voice through the text.

WH: hehe. please don't be too alarmed.

WH: i'm here as a friend.

WH: you can call me heir! :)

GT: Well...this is rather...sudden!

GT: *Nervously tugs at collar.*

GT: Usually im not one to talk to strangers...

WH: don't worry man, i'm not some sort of stalker or serial killer.

Dave snorted beside him, crossing his arms.

{You're making yourself sound more suspicious, ya' know.}

John only huffed and rolled his eyes slightly at that.

WH: i'm just here to make friends, really.

GT: Well...if you put it that way...

GT: Its very nice to meet you heir!

WH: it's nice to meet you too, gt. :)

John then felt a gentle hand touch his shoulder.  He glanced to the right to see Rose smiling gently at him.

{John, now may not be the time to talk too much to them.  Perhaps later.}

He nodded ever so slightly in acknowledgement.

'Gotcha, Rose.'

WH: uh, sorry about this, but i need to talk to other people now!

GT: Oh!  Then thats not a problem at all heir.  You sound like a very interesting person so i hope we can talk again soon... *rubs the back of his head sheepishly.*

WH: no problem!  bye, buddy!

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] ceased pestering golgothasTerror [ GT ] at ??:?? --

The Heir glanced over his shoulder slightly to look at his friends with genuinely curious eyes, smiling nervously.

'Uh, who should I try talking to next?' He asked mentally.

Rose smiled warmly, drifting closer to the screen slightly.

{Whoever you want to, John.}

'Hm...ah-ha!  How about Roxy?'

Rose nodded, looking a little wistful at the mention of her technical mother.

{That's fine.}

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] began pestering tipsyGnostalgic [ TG ] at ??:?? --

WH: hiya! :)

TG: who's thid?

TG: *this?

'Hehe! She must be drunk. Good ol' Roxy....' John hummed to himself.

WH: i can't tell you who i really am, but my name's heir!

TG: hehe, well hello heiry!  wat do you want from little ol me?

WH: i want to be friends and, well, this is a kind of meet and greet thing. 

TG: really?  welp, my name's roxy. 

WH: woah, isn't giving your name online a little sudden?

TG: npt if you're going to be frieeeeeends, hehe ;))))

TG: *not

WH: well...then can you keep my real name a secret for now? 

TG: syre.

TG: *sure

WH: my name is john.  it's nice to meet you roxy!

TG: hehe, john.  jawhn.  it's a cute name. ;)

WH: and roxy's a nice name too.

Jade giggled behind John, grinning amusedly.

{Oh my God, John, are you flirting?}

John raised an eyebrow in honest bemusement as he kept his blue gaze on his screen.

'No.  Why would I be flirting with her when we just technically met?'

Dave chuckled.

{Don't deny it, bro.  You're just naturally smooth in getting the ladies.}

TG: so jawhn, i think your eyes are a maze

WH: er, what?

TG: because i keep getting lost in them.

TG: *wonk* ;)))

TG: *wink haha :D

Rose let an irked expression appear on her face.  She sighed exasperatedly and face-palmed herself.

{Well, John, you may not think you're flirting, but Roxy is definitely doing that to you.} Her black lips quirk up with amusement. {Now, we should move on, John.}

John stiffled a chuckle before he typed.

WH: ah, sorry to cut our conversation short, but i need to go soon, so~

WH: i hope you have a lovely day!  i think i'm gonna talk to you later.

TG: hehe, okay ned.

TG: *nerd haha.

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] ceased pestering tipsyGnostalgic [ TG ] at ??:?? --

'Let's do Jane next!'

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] began pestering gutsyGumshoe [ GG ] at ??:?? --

WH: hiiiiiiii! :))))))))

{Bro, oh my gog, why are you doing the thing that the spider-b***h does?}

Dave gives you a look while you discreetly flip him off.

'Just shush, Dave.  I'm talking to my technical mom!'

GG: Oh?

GG: Um, hello!

GG: Who is this?

WH: to be honest, i can't give you my real name, but you can call me heir! :)

WH: let's be friends!

{Way to sound like a creeper, Egbert.}

'Just shut up, Dave.'

GG: Oh, uh....why?

WH: why not?  everyone needs lots and lots of friends, right?

GG: Hoohoo, I guess... :B

WH: so, can i be your friend?

GG: I guess so...???

WH: great! :D

GG: So...we're friends now?

WH: YES!

WH: :D

GG: :)

WH: XD

GG: C:

John chuckled softly to himself before inclining his head thoughtfully.  He didn't want to leave the conversation like this.  So...

WH: this may seem random, but do you have hobbies?

GG: Oh, well...I do like baking.

WH: cool!  here, why don't you try out this recipe for a cake roll?  it's really good! :B

WH: http://www.filipinochow.com/ube-roll-cake/

GG: Oh!  Thank you!  I‘ve been looking for something new to make, and this is perfect!

GG: Thank you for this recipe, heir. :B

{While it is sweet of you to do this, John, we still have at least one more person to pester before we head out to the Gates to explore LOWAS.} Rose reminded gently, brushing a hand through John's hair in a comforting manner.

Dave ruffled John's hair in amusement after that.  John pouted before returning his gaze to the screen.

WH: okay, sadly i can't stay any longer, but i promise we can talk more later!

GG: Aw, okay.

WH: bye, gum!

GG: Hoohoo, so long, friend. :B

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] ceased pestering gutsyGumshoe [ GG ] at ??:?? --

'And now, the mysterious Diiiiiirk.'

Dave tipped his shades down, bright, red eyes looking at you with mild amusement and exasperation.

{Egderp, seriously.}

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] began pestering timaeusTestified [ TT ] at ??:??

WH: yo! :)

TT: ...What.

'Heh, such a cool-guy response of confusion!'

{Or the special AI Dirk created, Li'l Hal, might talking to you at the moment, Egderp.}

John frowned thoughtfully at that before cautiously typing a response.

WH: am i currently talking to artificial intelligence?

TT: What?

TT: Who the f*** are you?

'Hehe, he's just like Bro--which he is.'

Dave looked at the screen for a moment before turning a curious, yet blank, face to John.

{Yo, Egbert, Dirk told me once that Hal immediately says this certain thing if you put 'auto-responder' in a question.}

The Heir looked at the Knight with idle surprise.

'Woah, really?' John turned a grin to his screen. 'Let's test it out then!'

WH: um....what's an auto-responder?

TT: It seems you have asked about DS's chat client auto-responder. This is an application designed to simulate DS's otherwise inimitably rad typing style, tone, cadence, personality, and substance of retort while he is away from the computer. The algorithms are guaranteed to be 9X% indistinguishable from DS's native neurological responses, based on some statistical analysis I basically just pulled out of my a** right now.

{Pfft--Dirk is such a thorough nerd....} Dave huffed out a soft chuckle.

{Like you're any better, Dave.} Jade rolled her eyes, giggling softly.

{Shut up, Harley.}

WH: do you really say all of this is i just type auto-responder in a question? :B

TT: It seems you have asked about DS's chat client auto-responder. This is an application designed to simulate DS's otherwise inimitably rad typing style, tone, cadence, personality, and substance of retort while he is away from the computer. The algorithms are guaranteed to be 9X% indistinguishable from DS's native neurological responses, based on some statistical analysis I basically just pulled out of my a** right now.

TT: I can tell you're enjoying this.

TT: Stop it.

John grinned and chuckled softly.

WH: i'm sorry.

WH: so i'm gonna guess that the person i wanted to talk to isn't present.

WH: anyways!  hello!  i'm heir!

TT: Wait.  You act like you know who you're talking to, yet I've never come across anyone like you in previous conversations.

TT: Who the f**k are you?

WH: *mysterious windy noises.* i am the heir.

TT: We have already established that, but what the he**.  Are you some sort of creepy old man stalking people?

Dave snorted softly, smirking at John.

{Pfft--!  Dude, told ya' someone was gonna call ya' a stalker.}

'Ugh, shut up Dave.'

WH: shhhhhhhhhhhhhuuuuussssshhhhhh!  i am a perfectly normal and young person!  i just want to be friends!

WH: also, i should call you something else instead of 'auto-responder'.

TT: What?

WH: how about i call you hal!

TT: ...

'Oh jeez, was that too suspicious or something?' John pushed his glasses up, looking at his screen with nervous eyes.

{I think that's perfectly fine,} Jade piped up. {He'll probably like the name!  After all, it really is his name...}

WH: uh, i mean, you don't need to accept the name.

TT: I like it.

TT: Alright.  You seem like an interesting person.  I'll take you up on your offer on being friends.  Although I don't know how my creator will react to this. 

WH: don't worry!  i plan on becoming friends with all of you guys!

TT: 'All'?

WH: oh, this may sound weird but i talked to a few other people.  you should become friends with them too!

WH: here, these are their chumhandles: tipsyGnostalgic, gutsyGumshoe, and golgothasTerror.

WH: you guys seriously need to talk to each other!  it'll be awesome. :B

{John, I believe it's time to go now.} Jade glanced out of a nearby window. {I think this timeline's Rose has reached the first gate.}

'Alright.'

WH: sorry, bud!  i need to go now, but we'll talk later.  you can tell dirk about me if you want to.

TT: Wait, how do you know about him?  My creator?

WH: uuuuuuuhhhh.

WH: BYE, HAL!

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] ceased pestering timaeusTestified [ TT ] at ??:?? --

TT: Wait you little sh**!

TT: God d**n it...

John rubbed a hand over his face as he pushed the grub-computer away from himself.

'Ah, that could've gone better.'

Dave crossed his arms as he leaned against a wall, transparent finger tapping a random beat on his arm.  John had noticed that Dave had done that a lot when he became a God of Time.

{You could say that again.  Anyways.  Adventure.  Exploring.  Spitting salamanders.  Let's go.}

John chuckled mentally and captchalogged the grub-laptop, sliding off of the bed as he stretched for a moment.

"I wonder if I'm at the first gate," He thought aloud, getting up from his bed. "I'm gonna go check it out." 'Let's go, guys.'

{Wheee~this is so exciting!  Let's save everyone!}

{Jegus, Harley, calm down.}

{Now, now, David, her energy is making John energetic too.  Isn't that good?}

Dave huffed, but he smirked, watching his the said Heir's back as he ran up the multiple stairs to get to the top of the building to get to the first gate.  John grinned back at his friends for a second as he finally made it to the top, seeing that the gate was just a few steps away.

{Yes.  No, he** yes.  Wait, he** f**king yes.} Dave chuckled softly. {It's good to see my best bro back on his feet again.}

Rose and Jade nodded in silent agreement, smiling sadly at John's back.  Such small, yet sturdy, shoulders were holding the fate of the world.  However...it was a silent promise between the three ghosts that John would never do anything on his own.

'Let's go everyone!' The Heir cheered gleefully within his head.

{He** yeah!}

The four went through the gate.

==> Reader: Be Dave.  Or more specifically, the Dave burried under puppet a** a few hours ago.

Chapter Text

==> Reader: Be the Dave that was recently buried in puppets a few hours ago.

Okay...as colorful, plush limbs and butts press against your face, you recall what John had told you before. Ya' know, opening up to Bro and all that sappy sh**?

Well...John Egbert, your derpy friend…!

You narrow your red eyes behind your shades as you quickly bring out a katana from your Strifedeck.

==> Dave: Burst out of the pile like ‘the one’.

Slash!

You burst out of the pile like the one with your sh**ty sword, slicing through multiple puppets. You are just…! So. Done. With. Your. Bro’s. Antics!

You pant slightly after massacring most of the puppets that had buried you. You then glance around to the refrigerator, finding a note stuck there with a Batarang.

Roof. Strife. Now.
Bring Cal.
we’re doing this man. we’re making this happen.

You rip the note from the refrigerator before crushing it in you hand. You scoff slightly, lifting your gaze to the hatch for a moment before glancing over at Li’l Cal.

“What the f**king he**, Bro.” You mutter to yourself as you shoulder your katana. “John, I hope you know I’m really trying to get the brotherly feels on.”

You quickly dart over and grab Cal, ignoring your own discomfort at the moment before heading towards the rooftop. You smirk wearily as you jump through the trapdoor, looking for the stairs.

This will be one he** of a strife.

~~

After climbing the stairs without losing your breath, you open the rooftop door, quickly glancing around cautiously.

You enter the rooftop, feeling the typical Texas heat beat down on your body as the sun slowly starts to set. You were about to put Cal down when he was suddenly snatched from your arms.

You quickly ready your sword and dart your gaze forward, seeing a certain Texan adult standing near the edge of the roof, the man’s back facing the sunset, casting a shadow over the rooftop.

“Sup, li’l man.”

You sigh exasperatedly, gazing up into pointed shades.

“I bet you know what I’m here for?” You reply dryly.

“Yep. A li’l friend of mine actually told me.”

That made you pause in surprise. Although your lips kept their stoic line, your eyebrows raised above your aviators.

Since when did Bro openly admit that he had a friend? Your big bro is more of a lone wolf kind of guy.  So why would...?  You then shake your head mentally and sigh, readying your blade.

“I honestly just want the copy, but that wouldn’t be very Strider-like, huh?” You bend your knees, preparing to move. “I have my own friends waiting for me, so let’s do this already.”

Bro, hat shadowing his face slightly, let’s an amused smirk flicker along his face as Cal rests in the crook of his left arm. The spiky-haired blonde lifted his sword up to tap it against his own shoulder.

“Bring it on, li’l man.”

==> Dave: Strife!

You dart forward quickly, sunlight glinting off of your shades as you swing your sword upwards. Of course, Bro dodges with ease, leaping over you to land in the center of the rooftop. You quickly spin around in time to only see Bro right in front of you. D**n! He’s fast as usual.

The air whooshes out of you when you’re punched in the gut. Before you could precariously fall off of the building, Bro grabs you by the back of your shirt, yanking you and tossing you into the center of the building. You tumble across the roof for a moment before you stab you blade into the ground, screeching to a halt as you found your footing.

You grit your teeth as you lift your gaze, pulling your sword out of the ground. Bro sets Cal down for a moment before whipping his hand out. Shuriken dart towards you and you quickly deflect them with a barrage of slashes; the tiny ninja stars stick themselves into the ground around you.

You then lift your gaze up when Bro jumps into the air, bringing his own katana down. Knowing that Bro was stronger than you--you couldn’t simply stand your ground and meet him in the middle. You moved to the side of the slash, gritting your teeth when your brother nicked your hair.

Suddenly, your red eyes meet glassy, blue ones. You swallow your yelp of surprise and duck under Cal’s orange arms. F**king Bro and his nightmare doll…!

You stomp your right foot on the floor before performing a somersault forward. You swipe some shuriken off of the floor and throw them at your brother’s back while in midair before landing on the ground, grasping your katana with two hands as you whirl around to face Bro.

Bro, as expected, blurs out of the way of the shuriken, spinning on his heel to face you with an amused smirk on his lips. You try to steady your breathing.

God d**n it! It’s been probably only three minutes and you're already out of breath!

You glare behind your shades and leap into the air, slashing downwards.  Bro dodges swiftly.  You slash a deep cut into the surface of the rooftop from where Bro once stood.

Feet back on the roof, you carefully step around the shuriken that remain sticking out of the ground as Bro comes rushing towards you.  Your body twists out of the way of a sharp thrust of the sword from Bro.  You duck your head back to avoid a jab to your throat.

You flip forward and roll as Bro takes a sweep at your legs.  Your left palm--they're starting to sweat--push off the ground and you flip forward again.  Your blade shraps unpleasantly along the rooftop in your sh**ty acrobatic move.  Your feet land on the ground solidly and you turn around to face Bro.

Your brother is suddenly in your space, a smirk on his lips as you raise your sword in time to block a slice to your face.  You two stand in a deadlock eventhough you know that Bro is stronger than you and he can easily overwhelm you.

"Running out of breath already, li'l man?"

You grit your teeth and jump backward, regaining your ground.  You bend your knees, your mouth forming a frown instead of a simple, thin line.

"Shut--" You dash forward.  You slash.  He dodges. "--up...!"

Bro's blade glints in the light of the sunlight when he sends a diagonal slash at your torso.  You hiss out a breath when he nicks your shoulder, a small tear appearing in your favorite shirt.  

You back up quickly and already feel a few beads of blood slip out of the small cut, dying the edges of the tear in your shirt red.  Bro lowers his sword, smirk now missing as he let's you take a much-needed breather.

"Is that it, li'l man?"

Strangely, there was no taunt in Bro's voice.  It was simply...genuine curiosity.  You blink, lifting your gaze to try see past those pointed shades, to see what the other was thinking.  Of course you had no such luck.  Instead, you simply steeled your nerves, gaze focused.

You know already.  You knew the moment you were burried in puppet a**.  You knew you werent gonna win this fight.

But F**K if you weren't gonna go down giving your all.

You quickly take a deep breath before dashing forward, sword briefly scraping against the surface of the roof. Bro raised his sword in time to block your slash.

Sparks flew into the air and you were thankful that your aviators protected your eyes. You then freed one of your hands from the grip on your sword to lift your arm up to block a roundhouse kick from Bro.

The blow landed solidly against your arm as you hissed a breath between your teeth. That would definitely bruise later on along with your stomach. You quickly roll with the blow and get to your feet, red eyes moving to look at Bro. Your gaze went back to Cal and you lowered your eyebrows ever so slightly into a light frown.

You dart forward and slash through the puppet. You catch Bro’s mildly surprised look as Cal falls into pieces. Astonishingly, Bro doesn’t let a single bit of anger seep into his face.  You mean, Cal is like the most prized possession that Bro has, right?  You expected some sort of change in emotions...

Bro merely blinks before kicking you in the chest, causing you to tumble back, your sh**ty sword snapping in half.

F**K!  Okay, that one hurt.

...

And now you're looking up at the sky.  Orange bleeds and blends with the red as the sky sinks lower past the horizon.  Purple clouds barely drift into view, the Texas heat was much to dry for a little rain.

Your heartrate is pounding in your ears.  Its loud and wow, you didn't think you would last as long as you did today.  Maybe it was...10 or 13 minutes this time?  Heh, new record...

Crows caw above, circling the rooftop like vultures.

You cough, your stomach aching.  You lay on your back, struggling for breath, squeezing your eyes shut as you let go of your sword, which was practically a hilt and half of the blade. You expect Bro to ollie outie on his rocket board after giving you his copy of SBURB. However…

You blink your eyes open when you feel a shadow fall over you, blocking out the setting sunlight. You see Bro sit down, and he’s reaching into his pocket to pull out...a roll of bandages…?

Bro merely raised an eyebrow at your surprised expression before he also brought a few packs of ice into view.

“Sit up.” He grunted softly. “It’ll only take a moment.”

You cautiously do so, watching him patch up your left arm before letting your gaze stray to the ruined doll on the side. Silence and heat fell heavily on your two before you decided to break the sudden, awkward peace.

“...You...you aren’t mad about Cal?”

Bro shrugs as he finishes patching up your arm.

“I guess I’m pretty mad that my...childhood toy is ruined.” Bro seems to stare at the doll for a long, blank moment before turning his attention back to you. You see a furrow in his brow...like he’s thinking about something. “Other than that,” Bro smirks amusedly at you. “You got over your fear a bit.”

You blink before your mouth opens slightly in surprise.

“You knew I was terrified of Cal, didn’t you?” You accused. “What the f**k, Bro?”

Bro shrugs again, his shades slipping down his nose slightly as he lifts your shirt up to ice your stomach. You hide your startled look at the solid guilt you see in Bro’s golden-orange eyes when they’re focused on icing your wound. Instead of asking about why Bro was feeling so guilty, you...you held your tongue for a moment before speaking once more.

“...So...your friend……” You lift your gaze to see a crow fly around in the red-orange sky, your palms feel the gravelly rooftop below you. “Are they the reason why you’re acting so...different?”

A lot of people were acting different lately, you thought dryly.  John was acting out of it the most...

Bro pushes his shades up, hiding his emotions from view as he lifts an eyebrow at you.

“I guess.” He murmurs thoughtfully before smirking. “...He gave me interesting advice.”

‘He’. So his bro’s friend was a guy, huh?

“What kind of advice did he give?”

Bro finishes patching up your torso and crouches back on the balls of his feet. The blond casually tosses the roll of bandages in the air before catching it.

“...On how I might take care of you.”

You blink in surprise at that, mind trying to process the words.

Wha--when did you start meeting this person?”

Bro let’s an amused smirk cross his face as he stands up casually, stretching a little.

“Just today. Online too.”

You open your mouth in surprise.

“And you’re listening to him?” You mutter in disbelief. “Why?”

Bro looks thoughtful. His lips twitch downward for a moment before he glances off to the side.

“Well...first, he threatened me about killing you,” Bro let’s out a huff of laughter at your disgruntled expression. “And then he blocked me.” The elder Strider shrugs. “After that...I hacked him. Eventually, he gave me a few tips in how I should act with you.”

Bro looks back at you with a contemplative expression. The caw of crows were heard in the background.

“...When you get a message from him, I guess my advice to you would be…” Bro tops his shades down slightly, his golden-orange eyes serious. “Listen carefully to what he says. I think you’ll enjoy talking to him too.”

“Wait, what do you mea--?”

Bro suddenly backflipps off of the rooftop, landing on his rocket-board and blasting off into the distance. The blonde shouldered his blade as he sped past a flock of crows. You sigh in annoyance as you watch your brother go. F**king b*****d always likes to make you confused.

You grunt as you slowly get to your feet, grasping your stomach lightly so the pack of ice doesn’t slip off.

Ping!

You groan to yourself. Someone was pestering you already? You glance around the rooftop silently.

Ping!

Ping!

F**king he**, someone needs to chill. You adjust your aviators as your gaze falls onto your big bro’s copy of SBURB. You bend down and swipe the two packets off from the ground with your free hand.

Ping!

You captchalogue the copy of SBURB and your broken, sh**ty sword before heading back inside of the apartment. Walking down the stairs was literally a pain since your body ached despite being patched up.

~~

You’re finally in your room when you hear another--

Ping!

--alert from your phone. You groan to yourself and eject Bro’s copy of SBURB onto your desk. You’ll set up the game later after you see who the he**’s pestering you.  You pull your phone out and open up Pesterchum.

-- ectoBiologist [ EB ] began pestering turntechGodhead [ TG ] at 1:13 --

EB: dave!

EB: daaaaaaaave!

EB: dave, dave, dave, dave, dave, dave, dave, dave!

EB: ...

EB: did you get your a** handed to you that badly?

You sneer outwardly at your phone, but you smile at the playful jab at your pride. F**king John Egbert. The best bro you could ever have. You wince as you get settled on your bed, replying.

TG: jfc egbert

TG: and no i didnt get my a** handed to me

TG: i was the one who did the a** handing

The response was almost immediate.

EB: haha! that bad, huh? :B

TG: stfu egbert

TG: id like to see you do better against bro with your sh*tty hammer because i bet you wouldnt be able to do sh** against him

TG: the dudes a gog d**n fighting machine

TG: i actually wouldnt be surprised if he was a robot this entire time

TG: he** how does he even stay on that rocket board of his

TG: magnetic magic or some sh**

EB: dave.

EB: you're just salty. :B

If John were saying that to you in the flesh, you would’ve given the nerd multiple noogies. You’ll just have to wait until you get into the game.

TG: salty

TG: not salty just

TG: just completely tenderized by bro

TG: practically put me on a fire and cook me to medium rare

TG: enjoy my meaty defeat egbert

EB: haha!

EB: anyways...did you get the beta?

You look over at your desk, seeing the copy of SBURB right there. You then sigh, glancing back down at your phone.

TG: yeah and funny weird thing is is that bro kinda

TG: patched me up afterwards

You’ll admit, if you didn’t have your natural Strider cool, you’d have probably flipped the f**k out at how unnaturally kind Bro was being.

EB: d'aaaaaaaawwwwwwww!

Oh he** no. Not ‘daaaaaawwwww’. John Egbert, you have a sh** ton of screws loose.

TG: jegus egbert this is not something to swoon about like a girl with the f**king vapors its weird and just

TG: okay i know you said i should open up to bro a little more

EB: and you should.

Your fingers pause on the keypad of your phone. There was something...serious about those three words. It left you a little off balance.

TG: ...

EB: i think he's just...unsure of how to care for you. i mean, have you ever thought that maybe he's never experienced what it's like to have a family guardian-figure? he probably wants the best for you, but he doesn't know how to do it.

Since when was John the type to be so serious? You’ve never seen your best bro type something so deep and meaningful.

TG: john what happened

There was a long pause before your best bro responded.

EB: what do you mean? :B

TG: dont bullsh** me john

TG: ive known you for YEARS and im p sure i can tell when youre

TG: ...

TG: when youre acting different

John takes the longest f**king break, making you feel like your bro might be ignoring you. Maybe he is. F**k, you crossed some sort of line.

TG: you havent responded so

TG: im sorry if i offended you

TG: jegus im just kinda concerned with you

Well, it’s not ‘kinda’. You are over the sh** pile concerned for your best bro.

TG: i mean i care about you youre my best bro and best bros look out for each other

You feel the smallest bit of fear that John might just ignore you. But to your surprise and relief, your best bro does respond.

EB: yeah. okay.

EB: i'll...i'll be honest with you.

EB: i had a nightmare.

You weren’t...expecting that.

TG: oh sh** was it bad i mean of course it was bad

TG: do you think you could tell me about it

EB: so...um, in simple terms...we were in this...sandy place.

‘We’?

TG: like rose me jade and you were somewhere

EB: uh, yeah.

EB: there was....there was this big evil guy. i tried to...protect you.

Protect? Not fighting side by side?

EB: and...we died...

What. What the f**k.

A nightmare where you, Rose, Jade and John died? In some kind of sandy place? What kind of sh** nightmare is that? You mean--f**k that sounds sad, but what caused it?

Since when does your best bro suddenly have dreams about you and your friends dying? And if John labels his dream as a nightmare-nightmare, then the deaths must have been...bad. Like the most gruesome, f**ked up sh** ever seen.

God, something really did happen.

You sit up straighter, knuckles turning a little white with how hard you were gripping your phone. You take a deep breath. The questions would come later.

Right now, your best bro needed you.

TG: but were still here

EB: huh?

TG: im here roses here jades here

TG: were all still ALIVE and HERE for you john

God d**n it, you want to do more then send sappy words through a phone. You want to give the greatest bro-hug to your best bro to comfort him.

TG: you dont have to do things on your own i mean were all practically family with each other we all have each others backs

TG: were here for you john

John doesn’t respond for a while. Maybe he’s processing…?

Ping!

Oh, there’s a response.

EB: dave...

EB: thank you.

EB: hehe, i feel refreshed now!

Oh thank the motherf**king gods above. That’s a positive response. That meant your rambling was making sense. While you were relaxing at the fact that you finally managed to do something productive, John suddenly responds again.

Ping!

EB: hehe! something magical is happening! :B

Magical? Well...at least he has his goofball emoticon again...

EB: i’ll get back to you later, dave. is that alright?

You feel a fond smile curl a corner of your mouth up.

TG: cool beans bro

TG: tell me about it later and john

EB: yeah?

TG: well always be there for you

And you mean every f**king word.

EB: heh, thanks. :)

-- ectoBiologist [ EB ] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [ TG ] at 1:38 --

A deep sigh rushes past your lips. You did not expect a sh** ton of emotions to be dumped on you. But...it helped your best bro, so you’re f**king chill with it. You sigh through your nose and lock your phone, lifting your gaze to your desk.

First, you’re gonna get Rose into the game. Second, you’re gonna pester Jade so much to get you inside of the game. Third, you’re gonna get over to where John is. Fourth and lastly, you’re gonna hug the everliving sh** out of your best bro because he needs it.

Nodding to yourself, you slid off of your bed and settle in your computer chair. You slid the SBURB disk out of its envelope and pop it into your computer.

It was about time you got the d**n show on the road.

==> Dave: Be John who is now exploring LOWAS.

==> Reader: Switch to a third-person view.

John spun through the air as he slammed his pogo-hammer onto the head of an imp. The imp burst into grist as its body hit the gray dirt. The ravenet’s blue eyes glowed as he then whipped his head around to a lumbering ogre.

John huffed and quickly lifted his pogo-hammer above his head, bracing himself as a massive fist swung down. He dug his feet into the ground before he redirected the blow to the side of his body, jumping onto the ogre’s arm. The ravenet ran up along the arm and smashed his hammer into the ogre’s forehead.

With a groan, the ogre fell, bursting into grist. John silently collected the amount before--

“Help!” A garbled voice suddenly cut through the air. “Help, please!”

John snapped his gaze around and quickly dashed towards the voice. He sidestepped a few glowing trees before he caught sight a of a squirming creature pinned underneath an ogre. He realized at this distance he wouldn’t be able to make it--!

{Don’t worry, John!} Jade piped up in her ghostly form as she floated ahead of John. {Just jump forward and use my power!}

John blinked before laughing out loud slightly, smacking himself mentally in the forehead.

“Ha, right!”

He felt a familiar tingling feeling run up his arm as a green glow surrounded him. Before the creature pinned beneath the ogre could get crushed, John warped forward and grabbed the poor animal and warped a good distance away.

John blinked at the scaly and slightly slimy feeling of the creature in his hands…

Taking in the yellow scales and amber eyes of the creature he saved, John blinked in realization. It was a LOWAS salamander.

John then shook himself of his thoughts, turning a sharp look to the ogre lumbering their way.

“Stay here,” He murmured softly to the salamander. The ravenet turned his head to smile gently at the reptile in reassurance. “I’ll take care of this.”

John set the salamander down before standing up, grabbing the hilt of his hammer with both hands as he glared at his opponent. John darted forward, his body glowing a soft blue hue.

The ogre snarled and slammed two large fists down. John dodged at the last second, body twisting as the wind followed him, brushing his ears softly. He steadied his footing, swinging his hammer back and smashing it into the ogre’s face.

The ogre burst into grist, the small, crystal-like pieces littering the ground. John huffed as he quickly collected the grist.

“That was...amazing…!”

John blinked before remembering he wasn’t alone. The ravenet turned his head to see that the salamander from before hadn’t ran away. The yellow reptile was now standing a few feet away from him.

“Well, aren’t you a strange creature!” The yellow salamander chirped, spit-bubbles popping as he spoke. “Your skin is so pale!”

John swallowed at the sight of the yellow salamander before him. While he never got to closely know everyone in his timeline, his planet, LOWAS, was a place he cherished. From the glowing trees to its inhabitants. He loved the grey skies, the smell of icy air, the lazy fireflies.

It killed a part of him when Lord English decided to destroy LOWAS. Only Casey--she was the only last living proof that LOWAS had ever existed--survived and no he can’t--

{John...breathe.}

John nearly jerked violently at the smooth, soft voice at his ear. Rose, transparent as usual, drifted at his side, gently squeezing his shoulder. Her eyebrows were furrowed with concern.

John blinked and took in a deep breath. He saw the other phantom forms of his friends drifting protectively around him. The ravenet took another deep breath before remembering that he was still talking to the yellow salamander.

He hid a grimace as he laughed brightly, crouching down in front of the inhabitant of LOWAS.

“Er, I don’t go out in the sun a lot. Anyways, my name is John. John Egbert. What might your name be?”

The salamander blinked, his amber eyes surveying John closely before he spoke.

“My name is Balthazar.” He chirped. “But everyone calls me Bal. It’s nice to meet you, John Egbert.”

John felt some reassurance with his friends next to him, so his next smile came out a little more genuine as he responded back.

“John is fine, Bal.” The ravenet then lets a contemplative look pass over his face as he glanced around the area. “Um...I was wondering if you could possibly tell me which area I’m in?”

Bal chirred softly in amusement before he quickly scaled John, settling on the ravenet’s shoulder.

“You're on the Eastern side of the Land of Wind and Shade.  Hope you don’t mind me here--anyways, I can take you to my village. It looks like a young lad like you could use a break, hm?”

John was about to deny the offer even though his muscles were starting to scream at him. He had to keep sharp. He had to fight more. He had to--

{John, bro, chillax.} Dave lowered his shades slightly to level a stern look at John with his red eyes. His Knight cape drifted around him in a nonexistent wind. {You can’t overwork yourself like this.}

John bit his lip. He could feel the other disapproving gazes of his other ghostly friends before he turned his head slightly to look into the amber eyes of the salamander on his shoulder. He smiled tentatively at the reptile.

“Well...if I’m not a bother…”

Bal grinned, his tiny, sharp teeth glinting in the dim light.

“‘A bother’? Why, young lad, you saved my life! You’re hardly a bother at all!”

John chuckled softly as Balthazar then flicked his tail forward, the yellow appendage pointing in a direction.

“The village should be a few minutes in that direction. Surely they will be interested in meeting you, John.”

Seeing the encouraging look Jade was giving him, the gentle smile from Rose, and the small smirk from Dave, John sighed softly and nodded his head slightly, storing his hammer away as he walked forward.

“Alright…”

~~

“It should be just over this hill--”

But Balthazar was cut off by a scream of fear.

“Aaaah, run!”

“Hurry! Find something to put out the fires!”

“The waters are still polluted with oil!”

“Ugh, just move everyone to safety then!”

Bal hissed in surprise and sat up straighter on John’s shoulder. John himself quickly ran forward, summoning his pogo-hammer as he reached the top of the hill. He took in the scene with sharp, blue eyes--small huts were on fire, yellow salamanders were scattered, black, serpent-like creatures, basilisks, and two large giclops invaded the area. The giclops were twice the size of ogres...

John narrowed his gaze and switched his pogo-hammer to Wrinklef**ker. His icy, blue gaze remained on the enemy, but his next few words were directed to Bal.

“Bal, I’m going to go fight, so it’d be best if you climbed off for now.”

Bal blinked in surprise, he hissed in disapproval, looking at John worriedly--well, as worriedly as a salamander could look.

“John, you seem like a strong lad, but going alone--”

“Don’t worry,” John cut in gently, smiling brightly at Bal. “I’m not alone.”

Bal gazed into those blue eyes. From the first moment the salamander had seen those eyes...he felt like he was looking into the eyes of someone who held the fate of the world--no, the universe on his shoulders.

Such eyes did not belong on the face of such a young person.

Bal sighed, not wanting to make things more difficult for John. The salamander quickly crawled off of John’s shoulder. Once his scaly feet met the ground, he looked up at John.

“You be careful, lad. I still want you to meet the villagers.”

John nodded, looking down at the yellow reptile with a small smile before turning a sharp look to the invaders below. He took a deep breath before leaping off of the edge of the hill. The ravenet felt the wind through his hair and on his face as he gripped Wrinklef**ker tightly in his hands.

The Heir landed on the ground without a sound as the wind softened his fall. One basilisk seemed to notice his presence and hissed in the ravenet’s direction, ceasing its chase on a poor salamander that had luckily got away. John felt a quirk of his lips go up in a semi-smirk--Jegus, was he getting influenced by Dave?

“C’mon.”

{Oh, he** yes, reveal your inner-Strider, Egbert.} Phantom-Dave smirked at his side. The Knight was watching the incoming opponents closely. {Remember, bro, the basilisks have wings--they’re fast on the ground and in the sky.}

John merely hummed in confirmation as a basilisk skittered across the ground towards him, the serpent-like beast sending loose pebbles away from its body as it clawed the ground to get closer to the Heir.

John jumped in the air at the last second to avoid a snapping bite from the basilisk attacking him. He called out to the basilisk below him, smiling crookedly at the hissing beast.

“Heh, I remember being trapped in the jaws of one of you guys. Quite nasty now that I think back on it.” John raised his hammer above his head, darting towards the ground and smashing the basilisk’s head in, causing it to disperse into grist. His blue eyes quickly moved on to his next opponents as he continued his conversation with, now, thin air. “I smelled like oil for a while.”

{Oh my gosh, Rose, our baby-John is turning savage!} Jade stage-whispered to the Seer that was floating next to her. The blonde herself was smiling amusedly. {Baby-John is growing up!}

John rolled his eyes before he watched the other basilisks and giclops heading towards him. Giclops were much stronger, faster, and bigger than ogres--he’ll have to up his strength and speed in his swings now.

The Heir of Breath sighed, smiling when he saw the wisps of blue circle him in lazy swirls. He couldn’t wait to find his Quest Bed; then he would feel the Breath flow through him easier.

John felt the wind push himself forward. He summoned his pogo-hammer in his left hand, Wrinklef**ker still clasped in his right hand. The Heir slammed the pogo-hammer onto the ground, bouncing him up into the air. He spun in the air before he swung Wrinklef**ker down on a giclops’s head.

However, the giclops was apparently smarter than an ogre.

Raising a massive fist, the giclops met John’s blow with his own. John felt his muscles jolt with the sudden weight meeting his swing. The ravenet grunted and shot backwards with the blow, his back hitting the ground, causing a few tears to appear in his Wiseguy Slime suit.

{John!} Jade barked worriedly, drifting over to where he was, white, dog ears twitching nervously on her head. {Are you alright?}

John merely grinned, a sigh falling past his lips as he spoke softly so only she and his ghost-friends could hear.

“I’m alright.” The same giclops that punched him started lumbering towards him. “Looks like I need to up my strength just a little more.”

He rolled to the side, a hammer in each hand, as a fist swung down, shattering the blue stone of the ground. John smacked his pogo-hammer onto the ground once more, sending him up into the sky.

God he wants to fly again.

John rushed back to LOWAS, Wrinklef**ker raised in his right hand as he smashed it into the giclops’s head. The giclops didn’t disappear yet, so the Heir followed up with his attack once his feet touched the ground, sending a jarring blow into the giant beast’s stomach. The giclops went sailing into its kin before bursting into grist. The other giclopses roared in outrage at this before they also charged at John, the basilisks slithering or hovering beside them.

John twirled the hammers he had in his hands, his grin looking a bit like a grimace. His blue eyes glowed slightly, his green tie now hanging loosely around his neck and his glasses a bit askew on his nose. A few buttons on his white undershirt were missing in his slight tumble.

“Looks like I made them mad…”

They were swarming now, looking much like an angry nest of bees that got poked by a stick.

{Sh**, John! Fall back, man. If you get caught in the center of them, you might get overwhelmed.} Dave drifted in front of John’s line of sight, his eyebrows lowered beneath his aviators. {You haven’t reached God Tier form in this timeline, so you can’t use your powers easily.}

“But the salamande--”

It was then that John felt a suffocating feeling pull down on his chest. He coughed harshly, setting his pogo-hammer down for a moment as he crouched down, back arching forward, the voices of his friends’ in the back of his mind. He hacked once more before a glob of something fell past his mouth and onto the ground.

Wheezing, John opened his eyes after squeezing them shut from his coughing spree. The ravenet blinked at the splatter of black muck on the ground. He heard his heartbeat pound in his ears as he stared at the small mess in a daze.

Is that...oil?

“Wha--?”

A basilisk was suddenly in front of him, sharp rows of teeth gleaming in the dim lighting of LOWAS. John grunted and raised Wrinklef**ker and reached for his pogo-hammer--

A blue bubble drifted next to the basilisk’s face. The black beast made a noise of confusion as it watched the bubble, turning its attention away from John. The blue bubble made contact with the basilisk’s face--

BANG!

The basilisk screeched in pain and surprise when the bubble exploded, sharp lacerating wisps of wind escaping the fragile sphere. Multiple gashes littered the basilisk’s face as it whined, swiping a clawed hand at its face in pain. More bubbles appeared, surrounding John in an almost protective way.

John watched in surprise as the basilisk backed up, the bubbles drawing closer. The beast hissed and scrambled back to the rest of its kin. The Heir noticed with further surprise that the giclops and other basilisks were...retreating? What in the world?

“Oi! Young lad!” John heard a scrabbling of pebbles before wide, amber eyes looked into his blue gaze. “You alright!? You took quite a tumble for a moment!”

“Bal?” John murmured dazedly. “What--?”

Balthazar moved his scaly hands to pat John’s cheeks with worry.

“Those bubbles from earlier? Only adult salamanders are able to form wind bubbles. Offensive forms need a lot more training though. The kids can make bubbles that sting though.”

That was certainly new. John never recalled that the salamanders had a way with defending themselves. As Bal continued to check if he was alright, the Heir kept a steady gaze on the retreating beasts. They’d probably come back later…

He then heard the sound of other, skittering footsteps. Suddenly, other yellow salamanders crawled over, looking at John with wide, curious eyes.

“You...saved us.” One of them chirped. “Thank you.”

He didn’t deserve their thanks. He didn’t save them last time--

{Don’t you dare think like that, John Egbert.} Rose frigidly murmured right next to the ravenet, snapping the Heir out of his darkening thoughts. {Don’t you dare.}

John swallowed and smiled weakly at this before responding aloud at the salamander that thanked him.

“No prob.”

LOWAS was still here and alive. He would protect it this time.

~~

“Wooow, you’re a tall pershon even if you’re crouching, Mishter!”

“And what are these weird things on your face? It makes my vision go fuzzy.”

John sat in bemusement as two smaller salamanders, child-manders, crawled along his body. One of them had his glasses in their claws; the small reptile was squinting through the lense with confusion.

“Danny! Get off of the poor boy!” A larger salamander huffed, standing on their hind legs. “He must be exhausted from fighting those beasts. Let him rest in peace!”

“But Ma!” The salamander, Danny, holding John’s glasses chittered in disappointment. “This is the guy who saved the village! So he’s super cool. I wanna get to know him!”

The other salamander with a lisp giggled as she gently played with John’s hair, hanging on the ravenet’s shoulder.

“You have shoft fur too, Mishter! By the way, I’m Cameron! You can call me Cam though!”

The larger salamander, darker splotches of yellow decorated her head, on the ground sighed in exasperation before looking at John with a sheepish smile--how can reptiles show human-like expressions? I have no clue.

“Apologies, Windy One, my children can be quite a handful. I am Moreau, matriarch of the Eastern Salamander Clan.”

John blinked in idle surprise before smiling in a reassuring way, catching Cameron before she could fall off of his shoulder. He let out a small laugh when Danny returned his glasses onto his face.

“Oh, it’s no problem at all. And it’s nice to meet you. My name’s John Egbert.” He paused for a moment before adding on. “And...did you call me ‘Windy One’?”

Moreau nodded seriously, amber eyes sharp.

“Why of course. I have never seen the Breath flow so freely inside of a person.”

John lifted a curious eyebrow at that.

“You can see...the Breath?”

“Yes. It is the blue wisps that follow you, Windy One. You too can see them if you focus hard enough.”

John made a sound of interest as he pondered thoughtfully, side-eyeing his friends. They all shrugged or watched on with curiosity. The ravenet then studied the salamander matriarch before him, focusing.

His surroundings seemed to slowly gray out. When he thought all the color was gone, he blinked in surprise he saw blue wisps rolling off of Moreau and the child-manders on top of him. Moreau chirped with happiness.

“You can see it now, can’t you? The Breath flows strongly through salamanders and the Denizen of this planet.”

At the mention of the word ‘Denizen’, John stiffened slightly. His vision flooded with color again, focus broken, as his thoughts raced.

‘Oh sh**, the Denizen…’ He didn’t really notice as more salamanders approached where he sat. ‘...Terezi was the first to contact me about him. Guys, should I wait or should I go on ahead to get the zappy powers?’

Rose pursed her lips together, orange robes swishing around her body as she hummed thoughtfully.

{Getting your God Tier form in top priority, John. If we get you into your Heir form you’ll have an easier time manipulating your element and ours…}

‘I guess...oh sh**, but I also have to find the Rings and stop Jack on Derse--’

“Young lad, are you feeling better?”

John snapped to attention and saw Balthazar by his left side. One clawed hand was resting comfortingly on the ravenet’s thigh. The village salamanders were now crowding the area, looking at their visitor with curious eyes.

So the other salamanders must have finished making repairs and putting out the fires…

“I thank you as the patriarch of the Eastern Salamander Clan for saving both my life and the village.”

John nearly yelped in surprise when the salamanders of the small village bowed at him, following their leader. Moreau and her children also bowed towards the ravenet.

“J-Jeez! You guys don’t need to do that. No need to bow!”

{But bro, you’re the Heir. You’re technically royalty.} Dave smirked on the side, chuckling at John’s shy flailing. {Bask in your royalty, Egbert.}

To John’s relief, the salamanders stopped bowing, but they did start to circle around the ravenet, playing with the cuffs of his suit, tugging his pants, curling his hair between their claws. The Heir sat patiently with the group of salamanders, the touches weren’t uncomfortable in any way. It was like troll-papping, calming John’s nerves as he indulged the curious, yellow reptiles.

Meanwhile Balthazar and Moreau watched the ongoings with amusement. The patriarch then frowned thoughtfully, amber eyes looking over at his wife.

“Moreau...you saw it too, didn’t you?”

“Aye,” The matriarch answered with subdued awe, stifling a giggle when a child-mander crawled onto John’s outstretched arm, swinging on it with glee. “The Breath follows him closely. It surrounds him, like a mother with her child.”

Bal hummed softly.

“So...he is the Heir.” The salamander then frowned, gaze troubled. “But I wasn’t actually asking about that, Moreau.”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you not see that oil that he coughed out?”

Moreau turned her head to look at Bal in alarm.

“He coughed up oil? But that means…”

“He is a true time traveler, yes.” Bal chirred softly in concern for the Heir. “Time traveling is rather messy business, even those who wield Time will eventually encounter ‘rebounds’. Since John is of the Breath, he coughs up the Breath’s opposite: oil.”

Moreau’s expression grew troubled, she clicked her claws together nervously as she looked back over at John, who had recently pulled out his goofy glasses and put them on, causing most of the salamanders to laugh.

“...This does not kill him, right?”

“No. But it can end up killing him--if he were to get a ‘rebound’ during a fight, he would be...defenseless.”

The two leaders of the Eastern Salamander Clan watched as John continued to play with the others. Bal finally looked over at Moreau with a grim smile.

“I shall lead him to his Quest Bed, and try my best to accompany him on his journey. A true time traveler like him doesn’t come from the future without reason.” His amber eyes shifted to the gray sky above, where the trapped fireflies blinked lazily. “I fear that a war is coming.”

Moreau stared at Bal for a moment before slowly nodding. She quickly crawled towards the villagers and told them to prepare some food for their guest.

The conversation was supposedly private, but three certain ghosts heard everything. Rose, Jade and Dave stared at each other for a long moment, their clothes flowing in a non-existent wind.  Rose then looked over at Dave with narrowed and slightly shocked eyes.

{I have never heard of these…’rebounds’ before.} She murmured quietly. {Did you…?}

Dave shrugged uncomfortably, he stuffed his hands into his pockets, shoulders hunching slightly.

{Well...it only happened to Davesprite from what I recall. He was apparently a true time traveler because he completely abandoned the timeline he came from.} The blonde’s eyebrows furrowed. {I thought it was some weird bird sh** from before, but….I caught him a few times hacking up ashes. He wasn’t hacking up oil, but maybe it’s different for people with different elements.}

Jade’s white ears were lowered, her expression distressed. She glanced over to where John was. Currently, he was now telling jokes to the salamanders, causing a few of them to laugh while the others just simply listened with rapt attention.

John wasn’t dying...but if he were to have some sort of rebound in battle…

The three glanced at each other.

They would just have to watch out for their buddy more.

==> Reader: See what Rose is doing.

Currently, the blonde was observing the empty observatory she was in. She brushed her fingers along the pink scarf she was currently wearing. The soft piece of fabric was something she had found in Mom’s special lab room, where a scattered tea set was placed nearby.

Now, she was in the observatory, watching as a Cruxtruder was placed near the side of the room along with the other SBURB devices. She raised an eyebrow at how compliant Dave was being before turning her attention to her laptop.

Thankfully, she found some sort of secret passageway in Jaspers’s mausoleum, which had led to a lab. There, Rose was able to find a mini, portable generator that provided power and Wi-Fi for her laptop. Dave then connected with her and became her server.

But back to the present, Rose opened up a chat box as Dave continued to set up the objects.

-- tentacleTherapist [ TT ] began pestering turntechGodhead [ TG ] at 3:03 --

TT: Hmmm. I’m surprised that you’re not ‘d**king around’ as you would put it.

No response. No snappy comeback.

TT: Where has the insufferable pr**k gone?

TG: lalonde as much as i like to d**k around i want to get some things done

Not exactly an insult, which was strange. Usually, Dave would be ranting and fooling around with Rose by now.

The observatory shook violently for a moment and Rose clicked her tongue. The fire in the forest must be surrounding the house by now. The meteors are falling much more rapidly outside.

TT: Something is troubling you.

Silence.

TT: You can tell me. I’ll see if I can provide any assistance.

Rose raised an eyebrow when there was still no response. She sighed softly and felt a smirk curl a corner of her black lips up. Drawing her own conclusions, she typed once more.

TT: It’s John isn’t it?

TG: jfc

Now there was finally a response.

TG: f**king black magic stop reading my mind

Rose huffed, eyeing the mutant cat that curled at her side. The cat had been found in one of the tea pots in the laboratory. Rose had no idea how Vodka Mutini, or Mutie, came to be, but he reminded her of Jaspers. The kitten purred, blinking his four eyes as he snuggled into Rose’s side.

Rose quirked an amused smile at the kitten before looking back over at the screen of her laptop as another tremor shook the observatory.

TT: May I ask why you are so troubled about him?

TG: i would say no but knowing you you would just keep asking me until i say something

TG: so heres my reason of why im not d**king around

TG: right now im just worried about egbert because he told me whats making him act out of the norm

TG: he apparently had a f**ked up dream and it makes me ponder how the f**k he has a dream where we all die like wtf

TG: i thought it was a dorky nightmare where nic cage died or ghostbusters will never make movies again but NO egbert has a dream where were all f**king DEAD what the sh** is that

Rose saw the frustration that Dave was subconsciously pushing into his words. She sighed softly, her own lips thinning into a grim line as he eyebrows furrowed with confusion and worry.

She wondered if she should tell him…

TT: Do not bother John now...but I will tell you something else that you most likely don’t know.

TG: what he had another dream or something

TT: He did have another nightmare...but I caught him crying in his sleep. When he had woken up, it looked like he was preparing to fight--he even grabbed his hammer.

TG: ...

TG: Nis?/jskH7/$aksnw83o

Rose raised an eyebrow before blinking in realization. Dave must’ve slammed his hands on his keyboard.

TG: F**K

TG: wtf do you mean he was crying

TT: I mean what I said. He was crying in his sleep. Even after when he woke up, I tried to ask what happened and what was wrong.

TT: He denied everything. He was trying to smile but I could tell that he just wasn’t…

Rose trailed off, fingers leaving her laptop as she sighed tiredly. She rubbed her temples. She wanted to help John--she really did. But if he kept keeping everything in...

TG: i told him that were here for him so hopefully that does something

TG: and so the great reason why im not d**king around is so at least one of us can be in the game with john to give him a d**n hug

TG: when we all get together were gonna wrap john in blankets and give him hot chocolate or something and play that sh**ty con air movie

Rose blinked in mild surprise before a small, fond smile spread across her black lips.

TT: Are you proposing the ‘Sad Sushi Roll’ technique to comfort John?

TG: what

TG: oh

TG: well f**k yeah of course i am

TG: john is the sad sushi roll that we must take care of

TG: and i bet hes shorter than all of us

TG: so he will be the SMALL sad sushi roll that we will take care of

TT: Now, now, let’s not tease John of his height.

Rose chuckled softly as she gently nudged Mutie off of her thigh. The blonde then stands up, looking over at the Cruxtruder with sharp, lavender eyes. The soon-to-be Seer hummed softly before looking back at the laptop in her hands, storing her pink scarf in her captchalogue deck.

TT: Well, we should get this show on the road. We wouldn’t want to leave our small, sad Sushi Roll alone any longer, hm?

TG: of course not

TG: alright brace yourself sh**s about to go down

-- turntechGodhead [ TG ] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [ TT ] at 3:21 --

Rose stored her laptop away and captchalogged Mutie so the kitten would be safe. The blonde watched as Dave used his SBURB cursor to use an object to open the Cruxtruder.

==> Reader: Be Rose.

==> Rose: Enter.

Things spring into action once Dave opens the Cruxtruder.

4:13

Four minutes and thirteen seconds.

You snap your arms up in time to catch a dowel of purple cruxite. Dave’s cursor was already moving to get the Sprite prototyped. Quickly, you dash back to your room, skipping a few steps down the staircase of the observatory. Finally, you enter the hall, the cruxite tucked in your arms.

Passing by windows--you can feel the heat through the glass--the fire had indeed spread throughout the entire forest. Your home shook again as you slammed the door to your room open.

Your gaze landed on the Totem Lathe and you briskly walk over. Punching in the code and placing your cruxite into the machine. Once it was carved, you grabbed the cruxite and dashed out of your room, down the hall, and through a door that lead to your rooftop.

You squint at the bright light of the fire raging on the very borders of your home before spotting the Alchemiter a few meters away on the rooftop. You run forward and quickly place your carved cruxite down on a small holder.

In a soft flash of light, a large, purple case of wine bottles appeared. You blink in bemusement before reaching in for a bottle. Examining the bottle, you prepare to smash it on the roof when everything shakes.

You widen your eyes and the bottle flies out of your hand. A small drizzle of rain falls on you, cooling your skin as you watched the bottle sail off of the edge of the rooftop.

Your mouth parts in surprise before your black lips close to form a wry smile.

“I’m counting on you, Strider…” You murmur to yourself.

Without any more standing around, you dash after the bottle and leap cleanly off of the rooftop. Your pale, thin fingers reach out, and for a heartstopping moment, you thought that you wouldn’t be able to grab the bottle.

But then your fingers wrapped firmly around the neck of the bottle. You feel the cool glass of the bottle before you tuck it close to your chest. You look at the ground below, watching as it approaches rapidly--!

Merrow~!

You huff in slight surprise as glowing, pink tentacles wrap around your torso and arms. With a sharp, yet gentle tug, you were pulled back up into the air. The wind whips around you as your safely yanked onto the rooftop.

The tentacles release you and you raise your eyes to look at your floating savior. You recognise the face of your dead cat and parts of that Eldritch Princess doll that your mother had got you for your birthday. The prototyped sprite before you purrs happily.

At the sound of the sprite’s pur, you snap back to attention as another rumble shakes your house. You raise your gaze and see a massive meteor break through the clouds. The rain feels boiling on your skin now as you then raise the bottle in your hand above your head.

You bring your arm down and the bottle smashes against the rooftop. White light surrounds everything around you and yourself. You squeeze your eyes shut, bracing yourself for anything.

The soft sound of surf greets your ears. You pant softly, your heart pounding slightly in your chest from the adrenaline rush earlier. You can feel the roof beneath you, your knees and palms resting on the solid surface.

Slowly, you carefully crack your eyes open. At first, you squeeze your eyes shut again at the bright light that greets you, but you carefully squint your eyes open, adjusting to the new lighting.

You raise a hand over your head, watching how light seeps through your fingers before you shadow your gaze, standing up carefully. You blink, taking in a deep breath.

The taste of salt is faint in the air, and there’s a cool spray that brushes against your cheeks every few seconds. You blink again as gold, pink and blue light reflects across...a vast ocean.

You take a deep breath, eyes widening slightly as you take a step forward, close to the edge of the roof but safe enough to not precariously fall over. Glancing around carefully, your house was safely placed on an island of pure, white sand.

Surrounding the island was a beautiful ocean. You’ve never really seen the ocean before, but you heard that it was simply...blue and giant. But the ocean before you...it was much more than what you were expecting in real life.

The water wasn’t simply blue. It had hints of green in the shallower areas and purple in the deeper spots. Clouds of white, pink and gold floated over the waters, sending small showers of rain that fell gently onto the ocean. Waves sloshes gently over the white sand of the island.

You blink again, sighing softly as your shoulders lower. A small smile twitches at your lips as you relax slightly, taking in the view.

Your name is Rose Lalonde. And you are currently in the Land of Light and Rain.

==> Rose: Be Jade at the beginning of John’s birthday

Chapter Text

==> Rose: Be Jade at the beginning of John’s birthday.

Enter name.

|

FARMSTINK BUTTLASS|

Erm...there is no denial...but this young girl--with long, black hair, round glasses, white t-shirt and skirt--who you are about to be, is asleep. This is most likely not her name. Try again.

|

JADE HARLEY|

Correct. Your name is Jade Harley. And you should probably wake up now.

==> Jade: Wake up.

No, you’re sleeping. Also, you can’t really wake up because you’re doing something important.

==> Jade: Dream.

You open your bright, green eyes, staring up at a pink ceiling. Carefully, you sit up in your bed, yawning and stretching your arms above your head, buck teeth biting your lower lip as you feel your joints pop, squeezing your eyes shut.

With a final small pop in one of your joints, you open your eyes, smiling brightly. You glance around at your room--well, your dream room. The walls and ceiling were a warm, gentle pink. The floor was a lighter pink.

You toss your sunset-colored blankets off and swing your legs over the edge of your bed. Briefly, you examine your clothes. The yellow silk of your dream clothes are as comfortable as always and they fit snugly, yet loosely, on your form. The long sleeves and the leggings always keep your warm.

With a huff, you hop out of bed, your pink shoes touching the floor. You glance around your room before moving over to the window near your bed.

Looking outside, you smile brightly when you see a few familiar faces walk past the building--or more specifically, the tower--you’re living in.

“Hey~!” You call out cheerfully. “Good morning!”

You hear a soft squeak of surprise before a porcelain, white face looks up along with a few others. Prospit, the place you are dreaming in, is filled with multiple white, doll-like people. Prospitians either dressed in plain, white clothes or pale, pastel ones. They have no noses, but they have mouths and two black, beady eyes.

And now, the Prospitians gaze up at you. A few of them wave as they all smile up at you. They never talk much to you, but it was fine. They always greeted you with toothy smiles and shy waves, which was totally better than being ignored.

==> Jade: Visit your fellow Prospit Dreamer.

Steadily, you place your hands on the windowsill. With a soft grunt, you push yourself out of the window--out of your dream room.

Instead of falling like one would expect, you float in the air, flying without a care in the world. With a giggle, you wave one more time to the Prospitians below you before flying off into a direction you've memorized by now.

Your black bangs get in your eyes a few times as you fly through the air. You huff in slight annoyance before turning your attention to the tower you're approaching rapidly.

Carefully, you slow to a halt, stopping at the open window at the top of the tower. Peeking inside, you smile softly, crossing your arms as you lean on the window sill.

Prospit was a strange place. It was a city of gold filled with chess-people. But it also contained your and John’s dream forms.

Gazing into the small room, you see John in his Prospit pajamas. He’s curled up in ball, snoozing softly on his bed. You blink, considering for a moment before drifting into the room.

You float above Dream-John and grab his tangled blankets. Gently, you untangle the white blankets and settle them onto John, covering his shoulders and his body. You smile gently and can’t help but coo when John snorts a little in his sleep.

Your smile then fades when you look at his room--the pale, blue walls, to be more specific. You see crude drawings of some sort of black creatures wearing jester-like hats and clothes.

At first, when you woke up in Prospit and visited John’s room, you thought it was something cute...but now…

You hate it. You hate the pictures. You hate the creatures, and...and the words…

FOOL.

LAME KID.

DUHH.

You bite your lip before settling on the end of his bed. You never knew the cause of such hateful thoughts.

You hear a whimper and you flinch. You look over at John and sigh sadly. From the beginning--ever since you've known this place--Dream-John would never sleep soundly. Well, there was once a time he slept peacefully, but now…

==> Jade: Attempt to comfort John.

You make a soft hushing sound, trying to comfort him, knowing that John wouldn’t wake up from his nightmares just yet--but you still tried. You gently pat his head, running a hand through his hair, curling a few strands of hair through your fingers. You smile anxiously when John’s shivers die out slightly.

Once John settles down a bit, you huff, eyes narrowing. With a sudden rush of determination, you bring a golden marker out of your captchalogue deck. You float above John and scribble over the crude pictures and words.

wake up john!

you can do it!

You finish your encouraging messages with big hearts and smiley faces over the jesters and the snarling frowns. You wish you could do more...but this would have to do. You sigh sadly once more before finding a spot on John’s bed, kicking the jester doll off to sit in its place.

You take your laptop from your captchalogue deck and open it. Glancing down at the blue string--there are multiple, colorful strings on your fingers--on one of your hands. You smile brightly in remembrance before you start up a conversation.

-- gardenGnostic [ GG ] began pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 17:00 --

GG: john! happy birthday! :)

That was what the blue band represented. John’s 13th Birthday. You didn’t have to wait long before John responded.

Ping!

EB: thanks, jade! :B

GG: did you get my present, john?

There was a bit of a pause. You lift a curious eyebrow before looking out of John’s window.

Skaia was a massive, blue world that was just floating on the outskirts of Prospit; it was obviously bigger that the golden planet you were on. Anyways, Skaia would always have these white, fluffy clouds displaying moments of the past...or the future.

Right now, watching the clouds, you can see John on his computer. There are moments where the images jump ahead and he’s already exploring a dusky-looking land. But most of the images showed John working together with Rose in uploading the game.

Ping!

You look back at your computer to eagerly read the message.

EB: actually, i haven't got to it yet.

You pout, glancing outside once again. The clouds showed images of John getting his present later. You grumble to yourself before smiling at your screen.

GG: aw. :(

GG: well, i hope it gets there soon!

GG: you'll love it! :)

EB: i'm excited for it. :B

GG: by the way, john. are you playing that beta game with rose right now?

EB: i am! how did you know?

You giggle brightly.

GG: heehee! it's a secret~! :D

EB: darn. :B

EB: well, i gotta go now. rose just placed my toilet outside of the house.

GG: sounds like fun! :)

EB: pfft, my house is being wrecked and it sounds like fun to you?

You grin. One of your favorite things to do was make your friends happy.

GG: yep! XD

EB: yes, destruction is the best! ;B

GG: yay! :D

You then pout in sadness. You want to talk more...but this will have to do for now.

GG: okay, i'll pester you when you're not too busy.

GG: bye john! :)

EB: bye jade!

-- gardenGnostic [ GG ] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 17:09 --

You yawn and stretch again, shutting your laptop. You glance over at Dream-John again, smiling sadly at the ravenet’s twitching form. You hope that he will have peaceful dreams soon.

“Sleep, well, John.” You whisper softly, brushing a hand through his hair again before you pause in confusion. “...Huh...?”

You see something on Dream-John’s forehead. It was just peeking out underneath his bangs. With furrowed eyebrows, you adjust your glasses with your left hand as you gently move his bangs to the side with your right.

You blink before slowly widening your eyes at the sight of a familiar sun-like symbol. You’ve seen the symbol as a pattern on your blankets in your dream-world and real-world. Slowly, you let the bangs fall back into place and float up.

You frown in confusion, eyebrows raised in surprise. Quietly, you drift to the window, taking one last look at Dream-John before flying out. As you feel the wind across your face, you can’t help but ponder about the strange tattoo.

It was never there before.

As you wave absentmindedly to a few Prospitians below you, you fly towards your tower. As you do so, you blink your eyes in surprise when you raise your gaze up to your tower. You notice that beyond your tower...are two other towers. You slow to a halt in the air, blinking your eyes rapidly in surprise.

Were those towers always there?

You stare at the two, towers behind your own. Both of them were much taller and...unfamiliar. You don’t remember them being there yesterday when you last dreamed about Prospit.

==> Jade: Investigate.

Shaking off your surprise, you fly past your tower to go investigate the new towers. You first fly to the left, drifting up to the window at the very top of the tower that was currently closest to you.

With a huff, you’re finally at the top, floating near the window. Before you intrude, you carefully call out.

Hello~?” You can’t exactly see that clearly into the room since your body is blocking out the light from Skaia; the room is dark. “Anyone in here?”

There is no response. Carefully, you float in, a little on guard since this was a new place you were investigating. You glance around carefully before you did a doubletake to a bed in the far corner of the room, across from where you stood by the window.

Feet touching the ground, you walk over to the bed in the corner. It was bigger than a twin-sized bed--a queen bed. You tilt your head curiously at the large lump on the bed. Carefully, you move the white blanket that was covering the unknown person down slightly to reveal a head of neatly cut, raven hair.

You blink before you gasp in recognition at the relaxed, sleeping face that was revealed.

It was John’s dad!

Now that you glance around the dim room for a bit, you recognize little trinkets that John would say his dad loved. Fedoras, smoke-pipes, suits…

You look back over at John’s dad, noting that the adult was wearing Prospit pajamas. Carefully, you bring the blankets back over the ravenet’s shoulders, tucking the sleeping man in. You then decide to sit down next to the bed, crossing your legs as you frown thoughtfully.

This was a Dream version of John’s dad...but when did he get here? Just yesterday, there were no towers besides your own and John’s. But now…

You then straighten your back suddenly when a thought crosses your mind. You scramble to your feet and fly out of the room through the window. Your wide eyes are on the other new tower that was present. You fly up to the window of the tower and look into the place with an unsure feeling in your gut.

...

The room looks like your grandpa’s room.

You let out a breath you didn’t know you were holding as you carefully float into the room. Ignoring the different types of armor on the walls, the hunter-like decor, you land on the ground and speed-walk over to a large bed on the opposite side of the room.

You don’t like lectures. You don’t like strict rules. You don’t like being scolded.

But by God do you love your grandfather.

You stand beside the bed, your buck teeth biting your lower lip as tears bead at the corner of your eyes. There, in the bed, is the living, breathing and sleeping body of your grandpa.

Grandpa…” You mumble in disbelief.

Your knees buckle slightly as you fall forward onto the bed, reaching over to hug the sleeping form of your grandpa. He still smells like dirt, rain and a small hint of flowers and freshly cut grass.

You don’t care that your grandpa didn’t wake to greet you. You were satisfied with simply hugging him, feeling the rise and fall of his deep-sleep breathing against your own chest. It was the first time in a long while since you’ve cried.

~~

You’re not sure how long you cried, but you managed to pull yourself together, removing your glasses to rub your eyes dry. You feel lighter now before laughing anxiously to yourself when you put your glasses back on--you made your grandpa’s Prospit pajama shirt wet with your tears.

Feeling sheepish, you mumble an apology to your grandpa, even though he’s asleep. Now that you’ve calmed down, your thoughts begin to brainstorm again.

There are two new towers on Prospit. The new towers have your sleeping grandpa and John’s dad respectively, and they are both dressed in Prospit pajamas. You have no idea what this means...but something has happened in order to make such a drastic change. The towers were never here yesterday, so something must have happened…

Your thoughts go back to the tattoo on John’s forehead.

That was never there before either. You frown thoughtfully and grumble to yourself. With a frustrated sigh, you get up from your seat on the edge of your grandpa’s bed. You take one last glance at Grandpa, feeling your worries drain away slightly.

Grandpa is alive in this dream world. It’s strange, and you don’t know how it happened, or what it means, but you feel happier now.

“Bye, Grandpa,” You whisper softly, as if you would accidentally wake him up if you were too loud. “I’ll see you later.”

~~

You fly back to your tower, floating into your room. You gaze around curiously, checking if anything had changed in your room. Everything was the same as usual…

Something had changed though. You mean, not your room, but Prospit, John, his dad, your grandpa…

Something had changed yesterday--before John’s birthday. You lift your green eyes from the floor of your room and hum thoughtfully. Perhaps you should ask Rose and Dave about this later on. You then sigh before smiling, hopping onto your bed and getting wrapped up in your sheets.

You still need to walk Bec, your best friend and dog, and eat some breakfast. You have a long day ahead of you.

==> Jade: Wake up.

You shut your eyes before blinking them open, finding a familiar white floor there to greet you. You yawn and sit up, joints a little stiff from falling asleep on the ground. You glance around and find that you’re sleeping in your indoor garden.

With a grunt, you stand up, wobbling for a second since your legs were still asleep. With a bucktoothed smile, you dust your blue skirt off and head towards the stairs to get outside.

~~

Fweeee~Bec, c’mere!” You whistle loudly again.

You now stand on the outside of your home, traversing the green fields. For once, you take a rifle with you without any complaints when you pass by your dead grandpa who stands stuffed by the fire. You had actually sent a smile to him before heading out.

And now, you were looking for your wayward dog, Becquerel, or Bec for short.

“Bec? Fweee~come on, Bec! It’s time to get some exercise!”

Suddenly, in a flash of green light, you’re face to face with a furry chest. With a bright laugh, you lunge forward and hug your dog. Bec was an abnormally large, white dog, but you found that he was perfect for hugging like this.

“Hiya, Bec! You ready, boy? You ready?” When you release Bec from your hug, a big, glowing, green tongue licks your face. Instead of recoiling with disgust, you merely giggle, bringing your shotgun out of your Strife Deck. “I guess you are. Get ready!”

Bec huffs and quickly crouches down at your side, looking into the distance as you aim your shotgun forward.

“Ready…” Bec’s paws dig into the ground, crushing some dirt under him. You ready your shotgun, clicking the safety off. “...Get set…” You see how his ears flicker, and his green eyes stare intently ahead, as if already seeing where the bullet would go. You level your shotgun, shutting one eye as you take a deep breath, smiling slightly. “...GO!”

Bang!

Your arms jerk with the recoil of the shotgun, but you recover easily. You see a familiar flash of green in the corner of your eye and the wind breezes past you. You grin and count the seconds for Bec to appear.

1...2...3...4...5--

With a crackle of electricity in the air and flash of green light, you grin up at the muzzle of Bec. Reaching a hand out, a golden bullet falls into the palm of your hand from Bec’s mouth. You grin up at Bec, patting his head when he dips it down for you.

“New record!” You cock your gun, ejecting an empty bullet cartridge. You look back at Bec with a smile. “Come on, let’s see if you can beat again!”

Bec barks gruffly in response, getting into a ready position again.

~~

“Phewie~! That was 17 bullets today.” You giggle when Bec licks your cheek. “Let’s go head inside for some breakfast!”

Bec barks softly, shaking himself even though there wasn’t a single spec of dirt on him. In a flash of green, you find yourself in your home--in the kitchen, to be be more specific. With a grunt, you set your shotgun on the side; you’ll clean it later.

==> Jade: Make some breakfast.

You hear a bark and a few soft thumps on the surface of the island in the middle of the kitchen. You turn in time to see Bec warp some breakfast ingredients onto the surface of the marble island.

You see that there’s a carton of eggs, a package of bacon, a loaf of bread, and a block of butter out. You pat Bec’s head in thanks before you start making breakfast--actually, what time is it?

==> Jade: Check the time.

You glance at a clock on the wall and sigh exasperatedly. It was already midday. You slept in really late again.

Okay, so you're not making breakfast, but you’re making lunch now. You cut two slices out of the loaf of bread before heading over to the stove. Bec warped a pan out onto the stove while you turned it on, the metal coils glowing red with heat. You adjust the pan correctly before grabbing the block of butter and the slices of the bread.

With a hum, you watch as a small slice of butter starts to sizzle on the pan before you set the bread slice on the pan. Bec warps another pan out and you go back to the island to grab the packet of bacon. You open the packet and bring out three--you see Bec look expectantly at you--you put eight strips of bacon out onto the second pan before sealing the bag.

As you start up the second stove coil, you look over exasperatedly at Bec.

“If you eat too much bacon, you’ll get sick.”

Bec snorts in response, pawing your leg lightly. You pout at your dog before turning your attention to the egg carton. Bec warps out one more pan for you as you grab two eggs from the carton. You crack them open onto the third pan and start up the third stove coil, watching the clear part of the egg slowly turn white as it was cooked.

Sunlight pours into the window above the sink which is right next to the stove. You glance out for a moment, watching a few birds fly by. You look at how some clouds dot the blue sky.

You feel a wet nose poke your right hand, which had been resting limply at your side.

You blink and look down to see Bec there. He looks up at you with his bright, green eyes before he nuzzles his head under your hand. Slowly, a smile makes its way to your lips.

You move your hand to scratch him behind the ears. You then look back to the stove and flip a few things here and there with a spatula with your left hand as you continue to pet Bec.

Small moments like these were things you treasured.

~~

“...Ugh. Fine, Bec, you win--but it’s only because you’re so gosh darn cute!”

You watch with mild exasperation and amusement as you toss your last strip of bacon into the air away from you. Bec leaps into the air and easily snaps the bacon into his mouth.

==> Jade: Clean up.

You get out of your chair and gather your dirty dishes, bringing it to the sink. You start up some warm water and squirt some soap into the filling sink. Washing your dishes, Bec trots around the kitchen, tilting his head curiously in one direction, as if he was listening to something.

After you start rinsing the dishes, you look over at Bec with curious, concerned eyes.

“Bec…? Are you alright, boy?”

You set the dishes in the drying rack when there’s still no response from Bec. You wipe your hands dry on a towel before you walk over to him, crouching down to be level with his large head.

“Bec?”

...

Suddenly, there is a large paw placed onto your head. You yelp when it...pats you on the head roughly? You blink in surprise. It was like...Bec just pat you on the head.

Bec huffs softly, causing you to look at him. Lifting your gaze, you see that Bec is gazing at you intently. You’re surprised by the intensity of the gaze before his wet nose presses against your forehead.

It reminded you of a light kiss.

Blinking in surprise, you open your mouth to say something. However, Bec warps away. You’re left kneeling in the kitchen for a baffled moment before you stand up slowly. You bite your lip.

Since you’ve lived with Bec most of your life, you could pick up a few emotions from the dog better. And now...it was almost like Bec was saying…’goodbye and stay safe’.

But there was something reassuring about the little ‘kiss’ from Bec--like he was saying that he would be back.

Making a sound of confusion, you go over to your shotgun, which is still leaning against the wall. You captchalog it before heading up to your room.

~~

Once in your room, you notice that your laptop it beeping. Upping the speed of your walk, you grab your laptop and get onto your bed. You open your device and see that someone familiar is pestering you.

-- turntechGodhead [ TG ] began pestering gardenGnostic [ GG ] at 3:46 --

TG: sup

TG: harley

TG: you there

GG: hi dave!

TG: ...

TG: what happened

You blink in confusion as you get your shotgun out of your captchalogue deck. You also place your gun-cleaning supplies out on your bed.

GG: hm? what do you mean, dave?

TG: usually you would say hello with an emoticon or something

TG: did something happen

You blink before noticing your small mistake. You sigh softly, frowning thoughtfully for a moment before typing a response.

GG: well...a lot of things happened today. i’m not sure how to feel... :/

TG: jegus

TG: thats not good

TG: i mean john has been acting the same today and some really big sh** is going down with him or something

TG: im worried

You blink in surprise and set your shotgun down.

Something was wrong with John?

GG: john? what’s wrong with john? ):

TG: he

TG: gog i dont know how to explain this

TG: but johns been having nightmares lately

That made you freeze. You think back to those times where Dream-John was having an uneasy rest. Now John in the real world was having nightmares?

GG: how is he now?

TG: well last time rose informed me about him he was in the game and well

TG: ...

TG: apparently he had a bad enough nightmare to make him cry

That makes you grip the neck of your shotgun tightly. Dream-John has been only frowning in his sleep. But John on Earth is having nightmares that make him cry…

GG: :,(

TG: you said it harley

TG: its making me flip the f**k out

TG: but i at least got lalonde into the game

You are a little surprised. You thought Dave would be a pain in the butt with Rose.

GG: :0

GG: already? usually you would fool around.

TG: ugh why are both you and lalonde on my a** about that fact

You process this for a moment before realization darts across your face. You can’t help but grin widely at your screen.

GG: ...wait. :D

TG: no shut up

Haha, Dave must’ve realized that you realized something.

GG: it’s because of john, isn’t it!?!?!? :D

GG: aw, you’re being all protective over john and stuff. you just sent someone into the game faster so someone can look out for john! :)

TG: omfg

GG: *gasp* :O

GG: you must’ve also messaged me so you can get me to become your server player already! don’t worry, dave! i’m on it! :D

TG: jfc stfu harley

With a giggle, you hop off of your bed and carry your laptop with you to your main computer, getting out your copy of SBURB. As you insert the disc into your computer, you look back at your laptop.

GG: in all seriousness though, you’re right. if john needs our help, then we’re going to get in as fast as possible. :)

GG: we shall give john so many snuggles! :D

TG: yes

TG: operation sushi roll john is a go

You let out a snort of surprise at that, laughing as you watched your computer load for a moment before returning your gaze to your laptop.

GG: operation sushi roll john!? XD

TG: f**k yeah me and rose came up with it

GG: it sounds so cute! how does it go? :D

TG: like how the name says

TG: we wrap john in a plethora of blankets like a sushi roll put on his favorite shows feed him his most favorite food and give him his most favorite drink

TG: also we cuddle the he** out of him

GG: sounds fun! i’m in! :)

Beep, beep!

You lift your gaze from your laptop to look at your computer. Noting that your SBURB copy had finished loading.

GG: alright, dave, it’s ready! i’ll link you up. :)

TG: nice

TG: sorry to rush you

GG: it’s alright! it’s for john anyways. :3

You then pause as you open up the game and get it ready. You think back to your dream world for a moment before typing.

GG: dave...did...john ever tell you he got a tattoo?

TG: woah wtf

TG: a tattoo

TG: jegus

TG: JOHN and TATTOO have no way in going into one sentence with each other

TG: johns like an innocent saint like guy

TG: i cant really see him getting a tattoo

TG: well it would be pretty cool if he did

TG: id totally support him like the best bro i am

TG: wait what makes you think that john has a tattoo

TG: did he tell you he had one

GG: it’s my secret thing, y’know. the one where i know what you guys are doing in the future sometimes... :/

TG: oh

TG: but what did the tattoo look like

TG: was it a ghostbuster ghost

You smile briefly--that would’ve been cute--before frowning. You bite your lower lip with worry.

GG: well...it looked like a sun. :/

TG: a sun

GG: but the strange thing is...it’s not an ordinary-looking sun. the sun looks like a symbol that i’ve seen before multiple times. and it’s a pattern on my blankets too.

TG: d**n thats f**king freaky

TG: ...

TG: wheres this tattoo

GG: it's on his forehead, covered by his bangs.

TG: ...

TG: i guess ill ask lalonde to check it out when she finds john or ill do it when i get in

You glance back at your computer, seeing that all the preparations were complete before turning your gaze back yo your laptop.

GG: okay! now, let’s get started, dave! BD

TG: f**k yeah

-- turntechGodhead [ TG ] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [ GG ] at 4:13 --

==> Jade: Be Reader.

==> Reader: See what John is doing.

“Wow, this is definitely a new favorite of mine.” John licked his lips as he held a sea-green, wooden bowl of glowing, blue liquid. He sent a curious look over at Balthazar who was watching him with a bright smile. “What is it?”

“It’s a special soup of ours, made by our mushrooms.” The patriarch salamander clicked his claws together thoughtfully. “We haven’t really given a name for it though.”

John hummed thoughtfully, taking another sip of warm, glowing soup, legs crossed comfortably as he sat down.

“It reminds me of...mushroom cream soup...” John then snapped his fingers, grinning widely. “We can call it a LOWAS special: Glowing Mushroom Cream Soup. We can just call it Mushroom Soup to be simple.”

Bal chirped in amusement as other salamanders chattered in the background.

“Both names are fine.”

John smiled at this before lifting his gaze, watching as salamanders of different sizes and yellow hues lingered around, eating the odd mushroom soup. The ravenet felt the ghost forms of his friends drift beside him in a protective little huddle.

“...I need to go now.” John finally spoke up after a handful of minutes. “I’m sorry, but I need to head back to my home for a few things before continuing my journey.”

Bal blinked his amber eyes before bobbing his head.

“I understand.” He paused for a moment before speaking again. “I shall go with you.”

John blinked before his eyes widened in surprise. He set his bowl of soup down before he could drop and spill it out of shock.

“Wh-What--? Wait, what are you talking about?”

“You, my friend, have seen things a person, at your age, should not have seen.” Amber eyes closely watched how blue ones became filled with shadows for a moment. “I wish to help you, Windy One.”

John bit his lip, leaning back against the slab of blue stone behind him.

‘This has never happened before.’

{It hasn’t,} Rose gently agreed, her orange robes drifting in a nonexistent wind. {But this will help you, I’m sure.}

‘He’ll get hurt.’ He argued back mentally before saying out loud. “You’ll get hurt.”

“I am aware of my circumstances.” Bal replied smoothly, standing up straight on his hind legs. “Perhaps I will be dead weight, but I do not wish to leave you by yourself.” The reptile watches John closely. “The journey you wish to take is a dangerous one, and I will help you.”

“...” John sighed. “...Fine...but if something bad happens, I want you to go back or hide somewhere safe.”

Bal blinked.

“...I cannot promise that I will do so, but I will try to follow your wishes.”

John chuckled wryly at that.

“I guess...that’s good enough for me.”

~~

“--Moreau shall lead you all until I return with our guest from his journey. Do you understand?”

A chorus of ‘yes’ was heard from the Clan of salamanders. John watched wearily as Balthazar said his last few goodbyes before crawling onto the Heir’s shoulder. John turned to face the entrance of the small villages, looking ahead but directing his next words to his companion, who was perched on his shoulder.

“Last chance to back down,” John whispered. “You can’t have any second thoughts during the journey.”

Balthazar chuckled, the sound similar to popping bubbles.

“Young lad,” His voice soft and gentle. “It is a honor to journey with you.”

John’s heart stuttered for a moment. He looked at Balthazar with wide eyes before he smiled crookedly at his new partner.

{Take a leap of faith, bro.} Dave spoke on the side. {We’re here for you too.}

John sighed, taking a deep breath before taking a step forward and out of the village.

~~

Finding a gate back to his home was a little difficult, but they found it eventually. But before they went through, John stopped at one of the pipes that worked as a mailing system. The Heir brought out a white fedora from his captchalogue deck.

Gazing down at the hat, John bit his lip. He had alchemized one in his previous life out of longing. Now, he could send it away to its proper owner.

Before he did so, a thought crossed John’s mind. He brought out a pen and a scrap of paper from his captchalogue deck and quickly scribbled something down before placing the note inside of the hat. He then dropped the fedora into the pipe and watched as it got sucked in with a gust of wind.

Balthazar chirred curiously on John’s shoulder.

“Who are you sending that to, young lad?”

“My dad. He’s somewhere on this planet…” John pondered for a moment. ‘He should be strong enough to break out of Derse prison on his own.’ “I just can’t meet him yet.”

“I see…”

John then turns his attention back to the gate, walking forward. With one more step, he goes through it. Blue light surrounds and circles him, making his feel weightless for a moment before he found his footing again.

John blinked his eyes rapidly to clear his vision as he looked around. He was currently on the rooftop of the building. It was apparent that Rose has paused in her constructing. The Heir huffed and headed towards the staircase nearby.

It’ll be a while until he finds the part of his house-tower where the Alchemiter is.

~~

Entering his room, John was satisfied to see that the imps have not messed with his things. The ghost forms of his friends receded into his mind, disappearing from sight. John let Bal climb off to settle on his bed before sitting down on the soft mattress with the salamander.

The ravenet brings out his grub computer and opens it up, connecting with Dirk’s Chumhandle, intent on talking to Hal. Before he starts up the conversation, John looks over at Bal.

“Sorry, I’m gonna talk to a friend for a bit, so you can nap if you want, Bal.”

Balthazar nodded in understanding before curling up against John’s side. However, instead of falling asleep, Bal kept an attentive gaze on John’s door and window. John realized that the reptile was looking out for him, causing the human to smile.

John then turned his attention back to the glowing screen of his grub computer.

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] began pestering timaeusTestified [ TT ] at ??:?? --

WH: hal...? are you there?

Dirk hasn’t responded yet, so hopefully the AR was there, reading this conversation...

WH: so...um...i want to apologize about earlier...

Ping!

TT: You got that right. How the f**k do you know about Dirk?

Thank goodness, it was the AR. John then laughed nervously to himself. He could practically hear the icy tone of Hal with Dirk’s voice.

WH: okay...i know this looks bad, but i mean no harm.

Jeez, this was like the second time he had to prove that he wasn’t someone dangerous online.

WH: i’m a friend. i only want to help.

TT: How the f**k am I supposed to believe that?

John removed his glasses to drag a hand over his face. With a sigh, he placed his glasses back on and looked at his screen.

WH: bluuuuuuuuggghhh.

WH: ...

WH: what would it take for you to trust me?

TT: ...

TT: What show does my creator and I like?

John blinked at the near random question before smiling awkwardly at his screen.

WH: mlp. aka, my little pony. the top character is rainbow dash.

There was a long pause before Hal finally responded.

Ping!

TT: Hm.

TT: Alright then.

John blinked with slight bafflement.

WH: ‘alright then’?

TT: It’s apparent that you don’t have the time to have me ask 20 questions. I have a feeling that you’re working on something important, so I’ll stop being a d**k.

TT: Also, yeah, Rainbow Dash is the sh**.

John leaned back against the wall behind him in disbelief. Bal looked over at him with concern, but the Heir waved him off.

WH: do you really trust me?

TT: Not really. But hey, you seem pretty okay.

TT: Plus, I’ve only been recently “born”. Being a brain copy of a 13 year-old Dirk is rather lonely to be honest. I’m just here to answer texts that Dirk isn’t here to take. Talking to you is pretty enjoyable because you kind of acknowledge me as something more than an AR. I appreciate it.

John blinked in surprise. He had never thought...well, Hal is still Dirk in the end. Both don’t have confident views of themselves, so it would make sense for them both to be...

WH: ...it’s kind of rude to say that you're not the same person. i made that mistake once with a friend of mine. i called him a different name from his original one and that hurt him.

WH: i don’t want to do the same for you...

TT: It’s fine. I really like the name Hal. It’s short and simple. Like I said before, you made me feel like something more than just an AR.

WH: well...if you’re sure.

TT: I’m sure.

TT: So, how about we start over then?

WH: ?

TT: I’m Hal Strider. What’s your name?

John opened his mouth in astonishment. Slowly, the ravenet realized that the AR wanted a do-over of introductions. With a happy feeling swelling in his chest, a warm smile crawled across his lips.

WH: the name’s john egbert--and this is my real name. you deserve to know it, hal. :B

TT: Woah. Wait.

TT: Johnathan Egbert? The famous comedian?

TT: That guys long dead though...

John blinked before remembering that his alternate-self was, indeed, a comedian.

WH: well...you’re correct and wrong at the same time.

TT: What do you mean?

WH: ...

WH: do you believe in alternate universes?

TT: ...

TT: It’s been something I often thought about. Plus...my bro--and technically--Dirk’s bro is 400 years old. Confusing fact, but it’s true.

TT: So yeah, I guess you can say I believe. What of it?

WH: i am...an alternate version of john egbert. i’m just a teen who recently turned 13. i am also playing a game called sburb. slowly, earth is being destroyed while i get the rest of my friends into this world.

John blinked as he looked over his words. Yeesh, he was starting to sound like a lunatic again.

TT: ...Interesting. A game called SBURB? I think I’ve heard a brief mention of it in my world.

TT: Hmm...

TT: You’re not only here to apologize, I assume.

WH: hit it right on the nail, hal. :B

TT: I see...

TT: Ah, f**k, wait a sec.

WH: ?

John waited patiently. However, ten minutes ticked by and the Heir was getting worried.

WH: hal, you still there?

A handful of seconds pass by before the AR responds.

TT: Sup. I’m still here. I’m currently blocking this conversation from my creator for now. He’s talking to a new friend apparently. golgothasTerror? Anyways, what do you need, Heir?

John raised an eyebrow at the nickname before sighing. He rubbed his knuckles for a moment before resuming his typing.

WH: good. i wished to talk about giving a body to you. i’m not that much of an expert on mechanics, but i know a thing or two from my friends.

There was another long pause before Hal responded.

Ping!

TT: You...

TT: You’re serious? Not even my own creator trusts me with being mobile.

WH: you can say i’m being reckless...or you can say i’m taking a leap of faith. c’mon, we re-introduced ourselves, hal.

TT: ...There’s also more than me getting a body, is there?

WH: yes. it involves Dirk’s older brother.

TT: That guy’s 400 years long dead. What can you do about that?

WH: that’s where you having a body comes along. you are a key player in this.

TT: How so?

WH: as crazy as it sounds, i have a small amount of power that can manipulate time and space. :B

TT: ...

TT: If I had eyes, I would be giving you a certain look right now.

WH: bluh. hush you. it sounds impossible, i know. but if i didn’t have power over time and space, i wouldn’t have been able to contact you, you know.

TT: Sounds like a bunch of sh**, but I guess a lot of stuff that we’re talking about is sh**. I’m just gonna have to trust you.

TT: How the he** are you going to give me a body?

John smiled weakly at his screen, reaching out to his captchalogue deck, pulling out a small notebook from it. Four years of fighting had caused him to pick up a new habit.

Journaling.

He had dated and wrote down every important moment that had occurred during the battle. Most of it was filled with notes on...Lord English’s fighting patterns, but it also contained his special memories with his friends--humans, trolls, ghosts, and all of the odd ones.

John opened the worn, blue book and flipped to a particular page. A detailed design of a metallic skeleton and artificial muscle tissue was displayed on one page while the second part was filled with notes.

During breaks between battles, John got to know more about his companions. He learned a two or thing about all of them--which also included mechanics from Dirk and Jake.

John blinked as he scanned the paper he turned to. The Dirk in John’s previous had been wondering about giving Hal a body years ago, but he was too uncertain about going through with the plan. In the end, Dirk merely gave his notes to John, and Jake gave a few tips to the ravenet…

...Before those two died in battle.

Red stains magenta and yellow. Both died permanently because they tried to protect the injured fighters when everyone was retreating. They couldn’t come back, and Lord English towers over their motionless bodies, his laughter echoing, thundering, shaking--

“John…”

The ravenet blinked, and turned his wide gaze to the amber eyes of Balthazar. The salamander looks at the Heir with concerned eyes before he softens his gaze.

“Please don’t cry, young lad.”

John took a sharp breath at that, blinking, causing the tears that were filling his eyes to fall out and roll down his cheeks silently. The ravenet moved his glasses out of the way and scrubbed his suit sleeve over his eyes, taking in a breath.

He counted for a moment, hearing the comforting voices of his friends in his head.

Ping!

John steadied himself and placed his glasses back on, looking back at his screen.

TT: Hey...you still there?

John smiled bitterly. He gave a reassuring look to Balthazar before turning his full attention to his computer again.

WH: sorry. i just...remembered something. anyways, i’m sending you a pic of the plans.

WH: bodyprototype1.jpeg

TT: Woah. This is f**king detailed.

WH: how is it? i feel like it’s not entirely perfect.

TT: Hm...just a few things here and there. Overall, this will be a bada** body.

WH: pfft, are you complimenting yourself? :B

TT: F**k yeah. This design is the sh**.

TT: I’ll make a few corrections before sending you the finished plan.

TT: You think you can handle building this on your own though? Seems pretty complicated.

WH: well...there’s a...friend of mine that is adept in mechanics. i think he can help me.

John wasn’t sure if Bro saw him as a friend. He was a stranger after all...

TT: ...You think.

WH: hehe, yeah...

TT: Alright.

TT: So how will this help with Dirk’s bro?

WH: well, the body is for you to use, hal. but i need your help in searching for...i dunno, old videos? perhaps from when dirk’s bro was alive?

TT: Why?

John sighed softly. The ravenet had no idea what the alternate Dave was truly like. He didn’t want to get on the other’s nerves or type the wrong thing in his upcoming conversation.

WH: i need info for stuff...

TT: ...

TT: You just want to know how to talk to him, huh?

WH: huh?

TT: Since you’ve explained about having some power over light, space and time...I can conclude that you’re something out of a time travel incident.

John froze in surprise.

TT: I recognize a bit of handwriting in the photo you sent me. It’s Dirk’s handwriting. But you are an alternate John that has never met Dirk. I can only conclude that you are a time traveler.

John’s fingers faltered. The ravenet started at his screen for a long moment with wide eyes.

Ping!

TT: I take it that I hit it right on the nail. But hey, I can now understand why you’re secretive and stuff. And you should know, John, that Dirk’s bro will be fine with you being yourself.

TT: Whatever you need that guy for, I’m sure he’ll listen to you when he finds out who you are.

John bit his lower lip.  The Heir took a steadying breath, moving his fingers carefully over the keyboard.

WH: hal i gnnkhwd627$<y(gr:nhjerchnj;/)2wJHgj

TT: ?

TT: John?

John’s hands were currently smashing the keyboard as a large, glowing, green tongue slobbered all over his face.

What--aghff--!? The f--?!” John removed his glasses and wiped his face clean of slobber. He placed his glasses back on and widened his eyes, ignoring Balthazar’s concerned chirping at the moment. “B-BEC!?”

The said dog huffed softly, licking John’s cheek gently this time. John blinked in bewilderment.

“You...you should be with…!?” John glanced around frantically as his ghost friends popped into view. “What are you doing here, Bec?”

{Oh my gosh! Bec!} Jade looked tempted to hug him. Bec surprisingly turned to look at her and whined softly in what seemed to be longing. {Huh? You can...see me?}

{Animals and children are usually far more sensitive to spirits, Jade.} Rose supplied helpfully. {That, or it’s because he’s a First Guardian.}

{I wonder what he’s doing here though.} Dave muttered, crossing his arms. {Something must be up.}

John sighed at this before turning his attention to his grub computer.

WH: omg. a dog that has space powers is suddenly in my room. i’ll have to message you later, hal.

TT: Heh, sounds like fun. Also, I think this conversation is good already. You can just wait for me to message you about my corrections.

TT: You’re a good guy, John, so I’m gonna trust you on this. You keep safe. And just be yourself with Dirk’s bro, okay?

-- timaeusTestified [ TT ] ceased pestering windybreathHeir [ WH ] at ??:?? --

John sighed, feeling a little lighter that Hal wasn’t asking him multiple questions. Hal finding out that he’s a time traveler is pretty stressing, but he’s relieved that the AR was simply so accepting about it.

With a shake of his head, John turned his attention to the white dog sitting on the edge of his bed. Balthazar was perched on John’s thigh, watching the massive dog wearily. John smiled crookedly at Bec.

“Hi.” John gazed into the eyes of the dog, seeing centuries of life within them. “You must know who I truly am, huh?”

Chapter Text

The First Guardian eyed the Heir closely. The green eyes of the dog were sharp, filled with knowledge that few would understand. John gazed back in return, his own gaze also holding more knowledge than he should have. The ravenet quirked an awkward smile at the dog.

“...You know why I’m here.” ‘Why I’m back.’

Bec stared......before he snorted, continuing to eye John before lying down, head resting on the Heir’s knee. John blinked with slight surprise, looking down at the dog--jeez, his head could probably fit in the beast's mouth. Bec gazed right back at the ravenet, seeming to...wait for something.

John shifted, careful to not jostle his animal and reptile companions too much. He flitted his blue gaze to his floating friends.

‘Guys...what do I do?’

Jade hummed, moving closer. She smiled anxiously at John as her own dog ears flickered.

{Just talk. He actually understands a lot. He’s definitely here for a reason. And, I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but he always puts my safety first. So maybe he’s here...because he wants to ‘talk’ about my--this timeline’s me--entry into the game?}

John blinked owlishly before flicking his gaze back to the glowing, green irises of Bec. Slowly, John gestured between the dog and Bal.

“Bal...meet Becquerel, or Bec, a good friend of my friend. Bec...meet Bal, or Balthazar, my current companion and friend.”

Bal blinked his amber eyes, a few bubbles popping in his mouth, wisps of offensive air bubbles slowly dying out; the reptile felt much more comfortable after the introductions were made. Bec huffed softly, his eyes studying the salamander before he lifted his head off of John’s knee to bow his head slightly in acknowledgement.

Bec then turned his gaze to John...waiting for something once again. Jade made an encouraging motion with her hands, waving John on to ‘talk’ with her dog. The Heir sighed at this before directing his attention to Bec.

“You must be here...because of Jade, right?” Bec simply stared at John before dipping his head down and up, causing the adult in a teen’s body to raise an eyebrow, a surprised expression on his face. “Then...shouldn’t you be with her though…? Protecting her and stuff…”

Bec huffed softly before sitting up slightly, moving a paw up onto John’s chest, pushing it gently. The Heir blinked owlishly at the action. Bec repeated his movement before moving his nose in Bal’s direction for a brief moment. John blinked, forming a sentence in his mind.

“Something about my...God Tier form?” Bec nodded. “...You want to...help us get there.”

The dog nodded again while John sat back in wonder.

“But why are you…?” Why was Bec helping him?

Bec stared at John before licking the ravenet’s nose. John blinked in surprise and touched his nose, raising an eyebrow at the dog.

{Oh…} Jade murmured softly. {Bec usually does that when I’m feeling sad or troubled. It helps take my mind off of things.}

John lowered his hand slowly at that, staring at Bec.

“.......” The ravenet smiled crookedly at the dog. “...I guess Bal will tell you where we're going.” John watched the First Guardian carefully. “......Does Jade know something about me?”

Bec snorted softly before brushing his nose to John’s forehead. The ravenet widened his eyes, feeling his bangs shift--where his Light tattoo is. The Heir’s gaze lowered to his lap.

“I see…” He bit his lip before speaking once more. “...Is Jade...concerned for me?”

Bec merely inclined his head before rubbing his snout with his paw. Jade drifted closer to John, her gaze softening.

{That’s Bec’s way of saying he’s concerned too. And I bet my God Tier powers that I--this timeline’s me--is also concerned.} Jade smiled slightly. {Bec must’ve sensed my--my other self’s--distress for you and decided to check up on you, John.}

John was snapped out of his surprised daze when a massive dog head was plopped onto his own head. The ravenet blinked as he found his head tucked under Bec’s chin. The First Guardian was...half-hugging and nuzzling him….?

The Heir was...confused and lost. John hesitated for a moment, his laptop still in his lap and Balthazar was watching curiously on his thigh. Carefully, the ravenet reached out and pet the dog’s head awkwardly with his right hand.

John had never met Bec really. The closest he’d ever gotten was pretty much facing Jack Noir or fighting side by side with PM. Now that the Heir was meeting Bec in the fur, he was unsure of how to react.

The dog acted much more human-like than John thought he would. Well, Bec did take care of Jade for years after Grandpa Harley’s unfortunate death, so he must’ve picked up some habits.

Anyways, John felt…...safe. Bec’s semi-hug reminded him of his dad’s hugs--they both worked to make the one being hugged safe and reassured. John felt grounded and he slowly relaxed against Bec as the massive dog continued to cuddle the ravenet.

Take a deep breath. Calm down. Know that you’re not completely alright, but things will get better.

Carefully, John moved back from the hug, feeling warm and calmer now. The ravenet smiled shyly and sheepishly at Bec.

“Uh--thanks for the, um, hug, Bec.”

Bec yipped softly in response, his tail wagging ever so slightly. John grinned back before looking over at Balthazar. The Heir looked at the salamander sheepishly.

“Sorry...I’m wasting a lot of time--being pampered and all that--”

“Not at all, young lad!” The salamander patriarch chirped back, his amber eyes kind. “...Everyone needs support every once in awhile. I myself can give you hugs if you need them.”

John blushed at that and face-palmed himself. He heard his ghost friends laughing at his chagrin; they all patted their phantom hands on his head or back.

{Aw, bro, don’t be embarrassed.} Dave said between soft chuckles. {You deserve all the hugs.}

John huffed, looking over at Bal shyly.

“Uh...thanks, Bal.”

Hoohoo~John, I see that you’re back.” A familiar voice entered the conversation. “I’m sure you need something to eat.

Everyone in the room turned their gaze to see Nanna floating into the room. She smiled brightly at them, holding a batch of cookies.

They will help heal you and replenish your energy, John.” Nanna watched softly as John took a cookie. “You have a long journey ahead of you.

John smiled in return.

“Thanks, Nanna.” He takes a bite out of his cookie before looking at the blue sprite with curious eyes. “Has everything been alright here?”

Nanna nodded as she served cookies to Bal and Bec.

Yes. Although there are quite a few imps wandering around here, they have not done anything violent.

John nodded, sighing softly. He then looked at Nanna for a long moment, mouth opening to speak once more.

“Nanna...you can go find Dad now.” He smiled gently at her surprised expression. “I’ll be fine. I’ve got Bal and Bec with me--I’ll take care of myself, so you don’t have to worry about me.”

Nanna looked unsure, gazing into John’s eyes to catch his emotions. When she saw that there were less shadows in his eyes, she relaxed, moving a ghostly hand to gently pat his head.

...Remember that you have support from your friends, dear John.

John smiled gently. His phantom friends drifted back into his mind, disappearing from view once more.

“I understand.”

With that, Nanna drifted out of the room, gone in a small blink of blue light. John finished his cookie quickly, feeling the small aches in his body disappearing, warmth filling him. John dusted his hand over his suit, grimacing when he then remembered that his suit was still torn and dirty.

“...I guess it’s time to alchemize a few things…”

~~

John adjusted his new iGlasses, blinking as his vision focused sharply. He had added a few more things to his glasses, able to make them zoom in to objects far away--or they could project a holographic screen along with a keyboard. John fiddled with his glasses, switching to heat-vision, night-vision, and aura-readings, before letting them turn back to normal.

John slipped on a new, yet familiar, dark-green jacket , pulling his arms through before adjusting the black Ghostbuster t-shirt he was wearing underneath. The ravenet chose to wear black jeans this time instead of blue ones like last time. John checked himself in the mirror before exiting the bathroom.

Once he was out, he saw that Bal and Bec were waiting for him. The salamander immediately crawled on top of John and perched himself on the ravenet’s left shoulder. Bec trotted forward and flanked the ravenet’s side.

The ravenet headed down the stairs until he found the living room, where the deployed Cruxtruder still stood. The Heir grunted as he climbed on top of the machine. Bal looked curiously on top of John’s shoulder as the ravenet pulled out and captchalogged multiple blue, cruxite dowels.

“These...cruxite stuff you used for your jacket…...I still don’t understand how it works.”

“Think of cruxite as energy capsules.” John explained. “The grist that I collect from imps, ogres--and so on--are like ‘material’. With the ‘material’ I collected, I can make things with the energy of the cruxite. It’s confusing, I know, but that’s just how it works.”

John hopped off of the machine and headed back up the stairs to his room, entering through the door and walking towards the Totem Lathe. The ravenet ejected multiple cruxite out and punched in the codes to have them carved. John had to pause a few times to figure out what exactly he was making before doing so.

Once everything was carved, John captchalogged the cruxite cylinders and went out of his room.

John walked down the halls until he found the balcony. The Alchemiter was still in place, looking undamaged--although there were a lot of oil puddles everywhere. The ravenet tugged the sleeves of his jacket up and popped his carved cruxite out into the open. Bal crawled off of his perch to give the Heir some room.

This might take a while...

~~

In between building things, John recieved a message through his glasses. Blinking in idle surprise, John opened up a window and saw who it was.

Bro was pestering him…?

-- timaeusTestified [ TT ] began pestering windybreathHeir [ WH ] at 4:42 --

TT: Heir. I need to ask you something.

John blinked at his glasses in surprise. The ravenet set what he had in his hands down for a moment. Bro wasn’t exactly the type to start up conversations. John carefully responded.

WH: yes...?

TT: You seem to be quite the stalker. So I want to know if you know anything about a doll named Cal.

John was a bit irked by ‘stalker’, but his gaze sharpened at the name ‘Cal’.

WH: ...

WH: what brought this up?

TT: So you do know?

WH: well...i do know about cal. but why do you want to ask about that...thing?

TT: ...

TT: So you already know, but I recently had a strife with my little bro. Don’t worry, I didn’t hurt him too bad--like you asked me to. I patched him up afterwards.

TT: Anyways, during the fight, Dave sliced Cal up into itty bitty pieces.

TT: I had thought my first reaction would be anger or something...but I felt...like a fog had been lifted away from my eyes.

TT: Something I cared for for years just suddenly seemed...like nothing to me. I felt...relieved.

TT: Why is that?

John played with the cuff of his new jacket, biting his lower lip.

WH: cal is...

John frowned for a moment, thinking about how he should go on.

WH: ...

WH: do you know the saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul?

TT: Yeah.

WH: well...cal is like the literal meaning of that saying.

WH: his eyes are the windows to a soul--not his soul, but another person’s.

TT: Who’s soul are we talking about?

WH: ...

John fisted his hands, staring off into the distance for a moment, gaze forlorn before he focused back onto the screens in my glasses.

WH: the soul of this guy...is my enemy.

WH: but that is not important. you said that cal was destroyed? that’s good.

TT: Woah, wait. What the f**k are you talking about?

TT: Your enemy? Such a strong word. He’s not just some guy you don’t like?

John sighed tiredly as he picked up a carved dowel of cruxite, setting it on the pedestal to create another object. There was a soft glow of blue light as the object he needed was alchemized.

WH: i...cannot say. he and i...we cannot see what the other sees.

WH: anyways, what he did to you was mind manipulation. he twisted your idea of making dave stronger by making you abuse dave instead.

WH: your wish to teach dave how to fight became corrupted. you were manipulated through cal’s eyes.

TT: ...

TT: Are you saying...

TT: F**k.

TT: Then I could’ve done something.

John blinked in surprise. He thought Bro would just accept the fact that he was being manipulated--that it wasn’t his fault. Yet still, Bro blames himself for what happened. The wind swirls around him uncomfortably for a moment.

“Are you alright, young lad?” Bal called out in concern.

“M’fine.” John mumbled back quickly before responding to Bro.

WH: bro. it’s NOT your fault.

TT: Cut the bullsh**, Heir. If I could’ve done something, then just f**king say it.

WH: you had no way of knowing! why are you blaming yourself for something that WASN’T your fault!?

TT: Because Dave deserved something better than me.

John freezed. Dave’s voice used to be like soft, popping embers in the background, but now it was a roaring fire.

"Hey, John?" Dave softly asks as he continues to wrap up John's sluggishly bleeding right arm.

The two gods were currently in John's tent. The Heir had been injured on the battlefield when Lord English abruptly attacked their left flank. However, no lives were lost and no one got injured--except John, who had created a Breath barrier to deflect Lord English's attack slightly. Anyways, John grunts as Dave tightens the bandages a little to stifle the blood a bit more before taping it shut; the Heir responds.

"Yeah, Dave?" John asks, watching as Dave starts to put the supplies away.

"...After hanging out and speaking to Dirk a lot, I..." Dave pauses for a moment as he captchalogs the first-aid kit. "...I've been thinking about Bro."

John blinks before he frowns faintly, already becoming concerned. He knew how Dave suddenly came to the realization of how abusive Bro was to him, so the Heir was worried that the Knight would--

"I started thinking that maybe...Bro isn't as f**ked up as I thought he'd be." Dave murmurs, looking to the side, gaze hidden by his aviators. "Maybe...he used to be like Dirk."

"...What do you mean?" John asks, a little thrown off.

"I mean, it's not solid proof, but Dirk is just an alternate...younger version of Bro." Dave mutters. "It made me start thinking...what if something sh**ty had happened to Bro for him to become so...a**hole-y. And, you know, the thing about Lord Jack--...” 

John slowly widens his eyes at what Dave was piecing together. There hadn't been much information, but Lord Jack had been 'created' with the help of Caliborn brainwashing through a different Li'l Cal. If...the same thing had happened to Bro, maybe the abuse wasn't all that elder Strider's fault...?

"It makes me think if I could've done something to help my brother out, y'know?" Dave says, finally looking back at John with a wry smirk on his lips. "...I'm...I'm starting to think that maybe...Bro wasn't an a**hole--but he wasn't perfect, sure. However, he was my big bro, and I...I don't think I can hate him anymore."

There had been a pause then...before John moves over to brush shoulders with Dave, simply being a presence close to the Knight. Dave blinks before he leans against John's left side, taking in a shuddering breath before exhaling. After a few more minutes, the Heir of Breath realizes that his best bro had fallen asleep.

Gaze softening, John then flickers his gaze upwards abruptly when someone enters his tent. He relaxes then when he sees Rose and Jade there, watching on with concern. When they see that John was fine and Dave was sleeping...the Heir waves them over for a cuddle pile. It had been a while since they had all last slept...

And now...in the present...Bro continued to type.

TT: Who needs a f**king b*****d to take care of them? Not Dave. The li’l man deserved so much more than a piece of sh** like me.

TT: And I just...

TT: I don’t know anymore. Dave would’ve been happier if he didn’t have someone like me around.

WH: shut the f**k up right now, strider.

John’s eyes glowed blue--this isn’t right; Bro is supposed to be...not this--and Dave’s anger crackled into a forest fire in his mind.

{F**k you, Bro. He’s blaming himself for everything? John, give him a God d**n piece of my mind to him right now because the sh** he’s saying needs to stop--right f**king now. Type what I’m about to say to you.}

John blinked and his anger died out slightly. He curiously wait for Dave to speak. When the Knight did, John carefully typed each word.

WH: i know that you found dave in a crater of a meteor. if you were that much of a b*****d, then you would’ve left dave for dead.

WH: do you regret picking dave up?

The response was fast and sharp.

TT: What? F**k no.

WH: then STOP f**king blaming yourself. if you weren’t there, dave wouldn’t be dave--the coolest f**king kid. he wouldn’t be alive, i bet.

WH: you wouldn’t have taught dave how to play the turntables if you didn’t care about him. you wouldn’t have fed him. heck, you could’ve just kept your copy of sburb from dave if you didn’t care.

WH: and you, i quote, "love your little man".

WH: so shut the f**k up and just continue to be you, okay?

There was no response from Bro for the longest time. Three minutes passed and John awkwardly continued to alchemize his stuff; Dave grew silent, his anger now softening to a small fire. Finally, there was a response, and John paused in his work.

Ping!

TT: Haha, Jesus, kid. You’re a riot, Egbert.

John blinked. He blinked again before widening his eyes.

WH: wait, you knew all along that it was me!?

TT: Well, when I hacked you, I found out. So yeah, I knew for quite a long time.

‘Oh. My. F**king. Gog. HE KNEW ALL ALONG, DAVE--WHAT THE F**K!?’

Dave’s anger had disappeared completely, his emotions now happy, popping like small firecrackers.

{Haha, that’s my big bro, Egderp.}

WH: asdfghjkl!?

TT: Heh, anyways...

TT: Thanks, kid.

John’s gaze immediately softened. The wind around him now flowed lazily. Bal and Bec noticed the the change, but they decided to keep silent.

TT: I’m still a little torn about the mind manipulation thing, but I feel better. I’ll just work on fixing my brotherly relationship with Dave.

John smiled, relieved and happy for the elder Strider.

WH: that’s good. i wish you the best of luck, bro. :B

TT: However, this doesn’t let you off the hook, Egbert. You have a sh** ton of explaining to do.

WH: oh...

John sighed, setting an object to the side. He rubbed his forehead with tiredness. He sighed deeply before making sure to move his bangs back into place, responding to Bro again.

WH: perhaps we can do that on lowas, the land of wind and shade. we can talk there.

WH: i’ll...try to explain everything when you get there.

TT: ...

TT: Hm...

TT: Alright.

TT: Oh, and speaking of getting there--a meteor is about to crush the area.

TT: See you later, kid.

WH: good luck, bro!

-- timaeusTestified [ TT ] ceased pestering windybreathHeir [ WH ] at 5:01 --

John sighed in relief, smiling slightly as he returned to his work.

Things were slowly getting better.

~~

The ravenet turned his attention to his new weapons--four of them to be exact.

The weapon, Battleaxe of Haneul, was large but slim at the same time. John had mixed Dave’s Welsh sword with his Warhammer of Zillyhoo, creating a sky-blue axe that glinted a pale pink, green and yellow at certain angles.

Hammer of Enlil was a mix of a Jade’s shotgun and John’s Zillyhoo Hammer. The weapon was a silver-blue hue. A trigger was added to the hilt of the hammer-like weapon. John would have to find out what it does later on.

The Eye of Tempesta was a mash of Fear no Anvil and Eridan’s Harpoon gun. It created a sleek, crimson rifle with a scope. Phantom-Jade was practically bubbling with excitement, wanting to watch John try the weapon out later on.

And finally, Reaper of Night was crafted from Jade’s special space gun and Dave’s Welsh Sword. The blade was completely pitch black--from the hilt to the tip of the blade. And if one looked hard enough at the sword, they would see small stars swimming within the darkness--as if the sword contained space itself.

John stored all of his new weapons into his Strife Deck. With a small grin, John turned his attention to the smaller objects he alchemized. Picking up multiple dark green bracelets, John turned his gaze to Bec.

“C’mere, Bec.” The dog trotted up towards John. “I need you to give this to Jade and keep one on yourself for now after you help me and Bal get to my Quest Bed. If you were to run into mind-controlling trolls, these should help nullify the urges to obey. They’re not too strong though with the Condesce; it would take some of your own mental will to go against her while using these bracelets, got it?”

Bec nodded, allowing John to attach one bracelet to his forepaw before holding the other bracelets gently within his jaw. Once that was done, the ravenet stood up, patting himself down, checking if everything was there. The ravenet sighed as he stood to his full height, turning his head to look at his companions.

“Alright. I’m ready now.” His eyes glowed slightly as the fireflies twinkled above. “Shall we get going now?”

~~

Bzp!

John blinked to clear the green light from his eyes. He found that he was standing in a familiar area. Blue stone under his feet, he stepped forward slightly, eyes taking in the view of LOWAS below. Bal chuckled breathlessly, a smile on his face.

“Th-That was certainly new!” The salamander chirped. “Was that teleportation…!?”

John laughed amusedly at the reptile’s awe.

“Haha, something like that…” John looked over at Bec, who was standing there on a slab of stone patiently, green eyes watching the Heir carefully. “Thank you, Bec, for the help. Take care of Jade for me, yeah? I’ll send her in before I ascend.”

Then the ravenet paused for a moment, considering, before speaking once more.

“Bec, can you remember this code? It's just in case...things go wrong.” He smiled weakly. “Can you give it to Dave?”

Bec inclined his furry head before he huffed, hopping off of his platform to walk forward towards John. The First Guardian slowly nodded his head, and John smiled.

“Thank you. Please remember this: 413JE. 413JE is the code I want you to remember. Please give it to Dave if things don’t work out.”

The First Guardian stopped beside John, his nose against the ravenet’s limp hand, licking it gently before disappearing in a flash of green light.

John smiled softly at the spot where Bec used to be before walking up the last few steps to his Quest Bed. Once he finally on the last stair case he--

...

John blinked and stared. There were...two Quest Beds present. One was a familiar sky-blue with the symbol of Breath on it while the other...was a nostalgic magenta, the symbol of Heart in the center.

==> Reader: Be Dave.

==> Dave: Enter.

Well, you were TRYING to enter, but a certain, motherf**king Crowsprite that Jade had prototyped is being a huge d**k at the moment while meteors rain down from the red sky.

You grind your teeth as lift your gaze from your current foothold, studying the rest of the small, metal tower you had to climb in order to reach the sprite that currently had you ‘ticket’ to getting into the game--the red-orange, football-sized egg made from your carved cruxite.

The f**king Crowsprite was acting like a mom with the egg, floating around the object. You grunt as you pull yourself up further of the precarious tower you were on, jamming your broken sword in between a crisscross of metal bars.

F**ker…” You mutter under your breath. “Just give back the gog d**n egg…!”

Crowsprite pays no attention to you. Not at f**king all. The meteors are raining down harder and--

Oh f**king he** no.

Raising your gaze to the sky, you see a massive meteor break through the few clouds that lingered. You swallow harshly as you feel the heat beat harder on your skin.

Oh, f**k, f**k, f**k, f**k! You weren’t at the top of the tower yet! You seriously needed to get that d**n egg right f**king now.

However, before you can climb higher, the entire building shakes and you--you f**king slip. You widen your eyes before slamming them shut. And holy sh**, you are REALLY pissed off right now because f**k gravity--

“Li’l man, open your God d**n eyes and take my f**king hand!”

You jolt in surprise as the wind rushes past your face and you’re--

You’re face to face with Bro, whose gloved hand is reaching out to grab your bare one. With pure reaction alone, you snap your hand out and grab onto Bros hand. With a sharp tug, you find yourself riding on you bro’s rocket-board.

“Hold on, li’l man.” Your brother warns gruffly. “We’re gettin’ out of this mess.”

Gripping onto the edges of the board, your knees pressing against the surface of it, you watch with widened eyes as Bro directs the board downwards and both of you are sharply plummeting.

The wind snaps harshly across your face as Bro whips a gloved hand out and snatches the falling egg from the air. Your bro tosses it back to you and you catch it instinctively.

Quickly, you two blast off back upwards, passing by the apartment floors before finally making it back to the rooftop. Bro slows his rocket-board to a halt and lets you jump off.

You’re about to smash the egg down on the surface of the rooftop before--the motherf**king Crowsprite comes down and scoops it up. Before you can chase the d**n sprite--f**k, you’re running out of time and the meteor is getting closer--realize that your bro had flown off again.

“Bro!” You raise your voice. “Come back! Y--!”

There’s a bone-shaking rumble from the sky above and you once again see how close the meteor is. You see Bro flying towards the meteor, his sword drawn. He waves a hand back at you before giving a thumbs up.

Trust me.

You stare for a moment, hands unclenching limply at your sides. You watch--holy f**k he was giving you time--with bated breath as Bro draws closer to the meteor.

EB: i think he's just...unsure of how to care for you. i mean, have you ever thought that maybe he's never experienced what it's like to have a family guardian-figure? he probably wants the best for you, but he doesn't know how to do it.

You fingers tighten into fists at the memory of your best friend’s words. Lips pressing together into a thin line, you take a small breath before smirk manages to make its way onto your face.

“Cut the God d**n thing in half, Bro.”

As if hearing your murmured words, Bro’s sword cracked through the meteor as if it was nothing but an egg shell. This doesn’t exactly stop the meteor from falling, but it gives you time.

With a quick flashstep, you catch Crowsprite from flying off again, snatching the egg up. Bro returns in a rush of air, landing on the rooftop as he tucks his rocket-board under one arm. He glances at you and you nod back.

Without hesitation, you smash the egg against the rooftop. The building is surrounded by white light, making you squint even though you were already wearing shades. Finally, you shut your eyes.

The heat surrounding you feels slightly different now. It's not as suffocating and pressing. The heat is more like...a constant, comfortable warmth.

Carefully, your eyes open. You blink...and blink again. The new srea you sre in is slightly dark. It reminds you of dusk, where the sun had recently sunk below the horizon. Slowly, you make your way to edge of the rooftop gazing down at...an ocean of lava. Gold, orange, and red mix with each other.

The lava--or magma?--bubbles below. Golden bubbles pop before they get too big. Some islands of volcanic glass rest within the bubbling lava. However, they don’t cool down enough to become solid formations.

Lifting your gaze up, you...see something? In the distance, you see gears. They float in midair, acting like small ‘islands’. When you lift your head up even more, you see that the sky above is a smoky black, wispy, gray clouds floating across the vast expanse.

“Li’l man.”

You snap out of your observations and turn your head to see Bro looking at you. His gaze is unreadable as always, but you then notice that he’s already standing on his rocket-board. The engine rumbles as he floats above the expanse of lava, drifting near the apartment building just barely.

“...I’m going to meet the new friend of mine now.”

You blink in surprise. His friend was here? What--

“Take care of yourself, okay?”

Before Bro can watch your mouth drop open in surprise, he gives you a two-fingered salute before blasting off. You blink in bafflement.

It was...weird and new. Bro saying things like that was strange...but you felt...lighter. It was weird...but you think you can try and get used to it. With a huff, you watch Bro’s slowly shrinking form in the distance.

He’ll probably be back later.

==> Dave: Be the Reader.

==> Reader: See how John is now.

John sat on his Quest Bed of Breath, but his gaze was lingering on the other Quest Bed next to his--the magenta one. Glowing, sea-green butterflies floated on the surface of the magenta bed. The ravenet had never seen those insects in LOWAS before until now.

“You said...this was always here, Bal?” John questioned slowly. “There was always two beds here?”

Bal nodded, his gaze watching John carefully.

“Yes. It has always been here.” The reptile blinked his amber eyes. “Is...something wrong?”

John’s thoughts rushed. Whose bed was it? Was it Dirk’s? But the Scratch hasn’t even happened yet, so…

John shook his head quickly. He had to get Jade into the game now. Those meteors aren’t going to wait for him. The ravenet crossed his legs as he sat on his blue Quest Bed, bringing his normal laptop out of his captchalogue deck; he’ll have to think about this later.

~~

Thankfully, Jade had already had set up her part of getting in. All John had to do was connect with her.

John smiled grimly as he connected with his sister. The future-Witch hadn’t pestered him or anything, and it made him antsy. Hopefully Bec was with her, doing something…

He’ll just have to trust the First Guardian in keeping his sister safe.

John’s screen finished loading and he finally caught sight of Jade running up a staircase with Bec at her side. The two were apparently making their way to the garden room.

With deft fingers, John quickly set up the machines that were necessary for Jade to get into the game in the garden room. The ravenet opened up the Cruxtruder, watching at the countdown began. Just then, Jade rushed into the room.

10:25.

Ten minutes and twenty-five seconds.

She saw how things were set up and she immediately ran over to grab a green cruxite dowel, bringing it to the Totem Lathe to have it carved.

And then...John watched Bec stand next to the non-prototyped sprite. He bit his lip. If Bec doesn’t merge with the Kernelsprite, then Jack wouldn’t be as strong. However, if he doesn’t, then Jade wouldn’t be safe…

As if knowing that John was watching, Bec lifted his gaze and stared right at him through the screen. The Heir paused, fingers twitching with worry before he relaxed.

Bec was reassuring John--everything would work out. Taking a deep breath, John watched as Bec jumped and came in contact with the Kernelsprite.

From there, Jade’s entry into the game goes smoothly. Bec helps Jade in shooting the Bec-pinata in order to enter the game. With a sigh of relief, John watched his sister’s house get engulfed in light before transferring to the Land of Frost and Frogs.

Shoulders slumping with relief, John sighed softly before pressing two fingers to his forehead, focusing on his Light powers.

John’s mind flashed with images. He saw that Jack Noir already has the ring--he grimaced. His father and Rose’s mother are safe now though--that is all he could ever ask for--

Wait.

Oh no.

Oh no, no, no, no, no!

John’s mind flashes with the massive disk where Bro barely makes a scratch on--the Scratch, he had to do that later. But that's not what he’s worried about.

Jack is standing across from Bro, still in a jester-like form--that meant Bec hadn’t merged with the Kernelsprite yet.

“Are you the guy who’s been messing with Heir?” Bro asked, expression neutral.

Jack inclined his head--he had yet to get his dog-head--snarling at the blonde.

“What the f**k are you talking about?” Blood dripped from his obsidian blade and arm--it's soaked in red. “Whoever I messed with is unimportant. What do you want?”

Bro saw the corrupted blood-lust in Jack’s white eyes. He saw the need for more kills. Kill, kill, kill, kill, slaughterthemall--

The elder Strider seemed to make his own conclusions, and John could see the protective glint beyond his shades.

Jack could--no, would --hurt Dave.

“...How about a fight, you piece of sh**?” Bro finally taunted. He jammed his sword into the disc below. “Find me on LOWAS.”

Bro leaves his blade in a crack on the disc before blasting off on his rocket-board--he’s challenging Jack.

And now the scenes switch to LOWAS.

Bro is about to fight--...!

John yanked himself away from his Light powers, choking out a desperate gasp as he quickly captchalogged his laptop. Bringing Reaper of Night out of his Strife Deck, John positioned himself onto his Quest Bed. Balthazar cried out in alarm.

“John, young lad!”

“You already know how this works, Bal.” John spoke sharply as he positioned the pitch-black blade over where his heart would be. However, when he saw the frightened look on the patriarch’s face, John softened his gaze and voice as he prepared to kill himself. “...Don’t look.”

With a small chitter, Bal did as he was told.

Shunk.

...

==> John: Ascend.

You’re back, my Heir...

He’s back.

He’s here again.

Our Heir...

John snapped his eyes open. Blue lights flickered around his body. He felt numb and weightless as he stared up at a bright light above him. Squinting his eyes he watched as wisps of blue air travelled around himself.

Our Heir of Breath.

John opened his eyes further as he watched the light above. It got brighter, brighter, and brighter…

John shut his eyes. He felt the wind thread through his hair, as if comforting him. He sensed that the light had died out and the ravenet opened his eyes.

He saw a familiar checkerboarded battleground. He saw the familiar sky-blue clothes, his long hood swaying in the corner of his eye. Blinking, John lifted his head, light glinting off of his glasses. He stared up into the white clouds above, the blue sky of Skaia stretched far and wide.

John inhaled deeply, the Breath swirling through him and around him.

The moment of peace and completeness didn’t last for long. John snapped his gaze to the side, blue eyes glowing as his body started to dissolve into blue wind. Before he disappeared though, in the distance, he saw a familiar castle.

He stared for a moment, longingly watching the place before he shut his eyes and turned into wind completely.

In his new form, John rushed through the air, leaving Skaia and passing by Prospit--he would check up on the golden city later. The mass of wind rushed to a dusky-looking planet, fireflies barely shining through the dark clouds.

John rushed through the clouds, his senses stretching out--

He caught a flash of green in the corner of his eyes. John froze as his body became solid again, his human-form showing. Blue eyes widening, John whipped his head around and flew across the sky in the direction of the fading, green light.

His heart pounded within his ears.

He can’t mess up here. Bro was getting better. Dave was starting to repair his relationship with the elder Strider too! He couldn’t mess up here!

John found an area that was encircled in green flames. His gaze darted around wildly as he looked for--

...He could barely hear Jack Noir’s--he has the ring, he has Bec’s power--roar of laughter and triumph. John felt numb, so, so, so, so numb.

There, near the center of clearing, is one Bro Strider. The elder Strider’s own blade is sticking out of his chest as he lays, bleeding out, on the ground. John’s can’t hear his friends in his head; they sound so far away…

And then John’s gaze catches movement. On pure instinct alone, John brought out his Warhammer of Zillyhoo and blocked a strike from an obsidian blade.

“A new challenger?” A dark voice rumbled before he spat. “You’re just a kid.”

John snapped to attention, but he ignored Jack. His mind went into overdrive as his thoughts suddenly mashed up an incredible and impossible plan. He bit his lip as his eyes widened desperately.

Would it work?

He would have to try.

F**k off, b*****d.” John growled darkly when he finally made up his mind.

He sent a highly concentrated ball of Breath at Jack, knocking the dog-man--he should’ve waited in prototyping the Kernelsprite, but Jade probably wouldn’t have made it in--back across the air.

John then quickly turned his attention to Bro’s unmoving body. He dived down from the sky and landed on the ground harshly. The ravenet looked wearily at the sword sticking out of Bro’s chest before gritting his teeth.

In a flash of silver and red, the sword was yanked out and tossed to the side. John muttered out a choked-up ‘sorry’ to Bro--he can’t hear you anymore, John--before slinging a limp arm over his shoulders. John placed a hand on the taller’s right hip as he picked up the body of Bro.

The Heir saw a flash of green and Jack was in front of him, obsidian sword raised. Feeling a familiar tingle run up his left arm, John warps out the way in time, his hair clipped by the blade that would’ve stabbed him through the head.

John grunted, eyes shutting as he focused on warping back to where the Quest Beds were. There’s a change in temperature and John gasped, his feet hitting the surface of a different area. The Heir snapped his eyes open and found that he had made it.

He sighed in relief, staggering over to the magenta Quest Bed on the side with Bro still leaning on him. While he set the blonde down carefully on the Quest Bed, John noticed that his God Tier clothes were...black?

John dumbly blinked down at himself, finding the symbol of Space on his chest before--...his clothes slowly lightened back up to blue and the symbol of Breath returned to his chest. As John straightened his back and backed up a bit, skittering footsteps came from behind.

“John! You’re back!” Balthazar crawled over quickly from his spot on a slab of blue rock, amber eyes wide and filled with worry. “You’re injured--and who’s this fellow?”

John smiled weakly at the salamander.

“His name’s Bro Strider. He prefers just Bro though--”

John stiffened, cutting himself off as he lifted his gaze away from Balthazar.

Something was wrong. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.

John looked over at the magenta Quest Bed that Bro was on. He studied the seen carefully and his heart sunk lower and lower into his stomach, becoming a heavy weight.

No…

John stepped forward. His friends spoke, trying to comfort John--John can’t hear them again.

No.

The ravenet stood at the side of the bed, falling to his knees as he gazed at the bed.

“No...no, no, no, no, NO! F**K!” John slammed a fist against the bed in front of him, grinding his teeth as tears pricked his eyes. “No...I was too slow...not again. F**k…!”

There was no light to show that the Quest Bed worked. Not even a hint of magenta light. Bro was dead. Dead, dead, dead, dead--! Was the Quest Bed not for him...!?

{John--} He catches sight of misty, orange robes in the corner of his eye.

“Rose...please.” Balthazar is still there, but he doesn’t care. Everything is too much all of a sudden again. “Not now. I--”

{It wasn’t your fault.} She tried to soothe, her ghostly hand reaching out ever so slightly.

“John, young lad…” Bal murmured softly on the side.

“But I could’ve done something!” John stood up and spun around sharply, dodging her hand even though it couldn’t exactly touch him, his bangs shifting for a brief moment to reveal the Light symbol on his forehead. “Everyone was supposed to be fine--!”

{But it’s not your job.} Dave cut in sharply, hands clenching as he kept his gaze away from the Quest Bed of Heart--he can’t look. {You’re not responsible for everyone’s lives.}

“...But I’m the only one who knows right now.” John whispered. He took a shuddering breath as tears threatened to fall past his blue eyes. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. I wasn’t supposed to mess up--!”

“Oh~poor little brat~” A gruff voice crooned darkly in John’s ear.

John didn’t freeze for a split second--freezing would mean that you’re already dead--and spun around instantly, pulling the Warhammer of Zillyhoo right out of his Strife Deck again.

Klang!

Sparks flew into the air as John’s gaze sharpened into shards of ice as he shoved his opponent away with his hammer. His enemy was undeterred, a fanged grin on Jack’s face as his black wings flapped in the air a good distance away from the Heir.

John kept his gaze on the other, but he directed his order to his companion.

“Balthazar...leave.”

The salamander bubbled out a protest--but then John looked at him.

Blue eyes glow. They shimmer slightly, oceans raging within the irises. But what makes Balthazar pause the most…

...was the raw pain in them.

I can’t lose another friend.

Balthazar swallowed. He clicked his claws together. His tiny, sharp teeth nibbled on his bottom lip before he weakly popped out a spit bubble in John’s direction.

“Please...pl-please be safe, young lad.”

Bal crawled away quickly. John quickly turned his head to look at Jack.

Silence reigned over the area for a moment. Only for a moment.

And then the wind picked up. Blue wisps of air spun and twisted. The Breath swirled violently around John as he floated up into the air. Jack sneered at John’s dark gaze.

“Who the he** are you, brat?”

John didn’t respond. Green sparks crackled along his form. A red, blue and yellow aura rolled off of his body in small waves. He switched his weapon to the Battleaxe of Haneul, leveling the iridescent weapon at his opponent.

Jack scoffed, flapping his wings, stirring up currents of air.

“Ha, not much of a talker, eh? No worries--” Jack warped behind John, sword drawn. “I’ll make you scream for mercy by the end of this.

John didn’t bat an eyelash as he dodged a thrust of the sword from Jack. The ravenet spun around as he dodged, two hands on the hilt of his battleaxe. In a blur of blue, John aimed for Jack’s neck.

Bzp!

John narrowed his eyes as Jack warped out of the way in time. The dog-man flew a distance away from the ravenet. With a hiss, Jack’s eyes flickered down to the small gash in his shoulder; he had not exactly moved out of the way in time.

John didn’t give the other a break and rushed forward, his clothes darkening to black and his Breath symbol turning into Space. The Heir warped forward, getting in Jack’s face, axe raised above his head.

Jack snarled, raising his sword up, deflecting John’s blow. The ravenet was undeterred, following up with multiple slashes of his axe. Left, right, duck, upright, dodge. After his barrage of blades, John backed up before flying into the air, axe raised above his head once more.

John then flipped forward, building up momentum as he tucked his knees in. The ravenet fell sharply from the sky, clashing with Jack violently again with a screech of metal. Jack scowled--John was giving him a hard time; he was not pleased.

“PIECE OF SH**!” He snarled darkly as he shoved John back through the air.

John went the force of the push, flipping backwards through the air. John’s eyes glowed green for a moment before they switched to a shade of red--his eyes were no longer blue. The Heir’s black clothes lightened to red. The symbol of Space changed to Time.

John stored his Battleaxe of Haneul away and pulled out Eye of Tempesta from his Strife Deck. Flying up a bit, John leveled his rifle with one red eye looking through the scope.

Jack’s feathers bristled in annoyance and apprehension as he stared down the gun that was aimed at him. With a click of his tongue, Jack sheathed his sword in his chest, lifting his hand up into the air. Red light circled Jack’s ring, pulsing and growing--the light began to branch out.

{Jegus, that’s the Red Miles. John, make sure you’re not cornered.} Dave’s voice cut through John’s thoughts.

The ravenet hummed an agreement mentally, once-blue, and now red, eyes narrowing. With a roar, Jack through his arm forward and the branches of red light shot forward, twisting, multiplying and spreading--but all were aimed towards John.

The Heir took a breath as he floated in the air, rifle still leveled as he kept a sharp gaze on the Red Miles that were coming towards him. John pulled the trigger on Eye of Tempesta--he had no idea what he was doing; he was running on pure instinct.

Bang, bang, bang!

With three shots made in quick succession, the bullets shot forward in copper-red streaks of light. John watched as the bullets met the Red Miles head on.

Suddenly, there was a sound of soft ticking in John’s ears. The ravenet blinked and watched as the red branches froze where they were.

‘So that’s what this gun does…’

Jack roared in frustration, letting up on his use of Red Miles, the red branches breaking up instantly and fading from view. John then blinked and narrowed his gaze, clothes darkening to black once more, Space symbol returning on his chest. The ravenet warped out of the way in time to avoid a stab to the back from Jack.

John warped up above Jack, putting some distance between them. It was then that the Heir noted the burning sensation in his arm; it felt like he had slammed it into a wall with his entire body weight. John hissed and glanced down at his left arm, mildly surprised to see red lines--like rough scratch marks--decorating it.

‘...What the…?’

{Oh no. I think this is because you’re using an Aspect that’s not your main one...!} Jade murmured in panic in the back of the Heir’s mind. {John, you can’t use Space too muc--!}

“Running out of energy?” Jack hissed in John’s ear.

John spun around, grunting as his clothes lightened to sky-blue once more. He hastily surrounded himself in wind, creating a barrier. Jack snarled as he took a sharp stab at the wall of wind between him and his prey.

John gritted his teeth before a racking cough overcame him. The Heir widened his eyes as another cough fell from his mouth, followed by the taste of inky-black oil.

‘F**k! Again?’

John created an opening in his barrier on the opposite side of where Jack was and flew backwards out of it. The ravenet coughed again, choking out a glob of oil from his mouth. He wheezed heavily, watching the ball of oil fall to the ground below. John then blinked when he idly noticed a plethora of glowing, sea-green butterflies fly past below him--

{JOHN, MOVE!}

John wasn’t sure whose voice it was, but the ravenet jolted in surprise, lifting his gaze in time to see Jack’s widening smirk. The Heir saw the tip obsidian blade heading right towards the center of his eyes.

Jerking backwards, the blade soared past his head as his back went parallel with the ground below. The ravenet breathed in a sharp breath as he felt the blade move a hair’s width away from his nose.

With a grunt, Breath swirling in the palms of his hands, John performed a windmill kick--sort of like a breakdance move--managing to catch Jack in the jaw. With a resounding crack, Jack’s head jerked to the side.

John then quickly used the Breath to propel himself backwards. Quickly, he flicked a hand up, summoning a twister of blue wind. Jack was caught up in the tornado, and John was able to catch a breather.

‘Need a new plan. Need one, right now--’

A familiar, sharp pressure was pressed against John’s back and the Heir’s thoughts died out instantly.

“Caught you.” Jack breathed, and John could easily sense that the dog-man was smirking. “You’re just a useless kid after all it seems.”

John tensed at the words.

Useless kid.

Useless.

Useless.

The pressure grew and John was waiting for the feeling of numbness to flow through him as he was stabbed through the back.

Thwip.

...John blinked. He stared down at his chest. There was no numbness...but there was certainly something sticking out of his chest.

Five glowing, magenta strings stuck out of chest, connecting to where his heart should be. Blinking rapidly, things happened in slow motion for a moment. With a sharp tug, he felt himself move forward.

Before he could follow where the strings were attached to, John felt the wind get knocked out of him as he was yanked to the side with the glowing, magenta strings still attached to the inside of his chest. He grunted in surprise as he was then brought down to the surface of LOWAS, far, far away from Jack Noir.

John’s back hit the ground roughly, yet the landing was somewhat soft at the same time. John coughed as he regained his breath, wheezing slightly. Pushing himself off his back by his elbows, the ravenet’s body tensed for battle again. His blue eyes quickly snapped open to access his new situation.

...

...John noticed the dark-green boots in front of him. Slowly...he raised his gaze to dark-magenta pants tucked into the boots and a lighter-magenta t-shirt. His gaze widened further at the familiar symbol of Heart on his savior’s t-shirt.

“F**king he**, kid.” A fingerless-gloved, left hand was shoved into his line of sight, offering the ravenet some assistance in getting up. The other’s right hand was armed with a familiar katana. “C’mon, can you stand?”

...

One Bro Strider brushed the magenta hood he was wearing back so the fabric could rest on his shoulders--his hat was missing. Glowing, sea-green butterflies drifted idly around Bro, reminding John of the time where fireflies seemed to cling to him.

...

John stared up at the other with shock as he took in the adult’s full appearance. His heart pounded within his ears. Whether he was excited, terrified, happy or relieved--John didn’t know.

There was no way--but he was standing right in front of John, wasn’t he? He was there. He was alive. He was breathing. He was...

Bro had become...

“...A Thief...of Heart…?”

Chapter Text

==> Reader: Be Bro after Dave and he entered the game.

You blink as you take a quick survey of your surroundings after the white light had died out. Your tense shoulders relax slightly when you see that you and your little bro are no longer in danger of falling meteors. You push up your shades as you now carefully look for any hostiles in the vicinity.

The coast looks clear. It was just a massive expanse of lava surrounding the apartment building. You’re mildly surprise the d**n, old building hasn’t collapsed because of all it’s been through. You guess that logic isn’t a thing anymore once inside of the game.

Darting your gaze to the side, you see that Dave is looking around, completely enraptured by the new setting. A smile briefly darts across your lips before you frown slightly, turning your gaze to the sky above.

Something felt...wrong. You always had this certain feeling in your gut--something that twisted your nerves in a tense bunch--when something bad would happen. You squint up at the black sky above, eyes searching.

You still had to meet a certain kid.

What the he** was this LOWAS? Probably not this place. Egbert said it was the Land of Wind and Shade--definitely not lava and gears. You sigh under your breath and grab your rocket-board from under your arm.

You start the engine on it and toss it out into the air on the side of the apartment building. Your rocket-board rumbles softly over the air and you jump off of the building, landing on top of it. You adjust your feet so you would be balanced on your board when you took off again.

Lifting your gaze up from your rocket-board, you see that your little bro is still taking in his surroundings.

“Li’l man.” Dave immediately turns around to look at you. You pause for a moment to check that there are no injuries on him before continuing. “...I’m going to meet the new friend of mine now.”

You see Dave’s eyebrows raise above his aviators in surprise. He looks like he’s processing what you just said, so you simply continue.

“Take care of yourself, okay?”

You don’t give Dave a chance to respond, placing a foot onto the accelerator. Leaning forward slightly, you blast off. Bringing one hand up, your grab the rim of your hat to keep it from flying off. With a soft sigh, you feel warm air bat against your face.

As you pass by towering buildings--they’re more like the frameworks of buildings actually--you dart your gaze to a massive disk in the center of the ocean of lava. You blink in realization as you get closer and closer. You then remember a conversation you had with a few friends before Dave arrived on a meteor.

“The Scratch?” You drawl out lazily, poking a fork at the slice of cake in front of you. “What the f**k is that, James?”

“Language, Broderick.” Cobalt eyes gaze at you from across the table. Thin lips puff out a small cloud of smoke from a tobacco pipe. “...But I know you wouldn't listen to me anyways.”

You raise an eyebrow and hum in agreement. You send a smirk at James and watch him huff with mild exasperation.

“I’ll explain to Brozy for you, Jamie--aaaanyways, Brozy,” A feminine voice hiccups to your right with a giggle. You turn your head to see half-lidded, lazy, hot-pink eyes gazing at you. “The Scratch is a theory that I’ve been investigating lately with Jakey.”

“But you got this theory from a f**king game, Rox.”

“Language,” James chides again, puffing out another cloud of smoke. “But yes, it is from a game.”

“The game isn’t just a game though, old chap.” A chipper voice comments on your left. You turn your head to gaze into forest-green eyes behind square glasses. “SBURB is quite the serious subject. A game that can change reality itself.”

You raise an eyebrow. As impossible as it sounded, your friends never really lie to you.

“No kidding?” You get a nod in return. With a huff, you look back at James. “So back to the topic. What the he** is the Scratch?”

“The Scratch, we found out, is…” James hums for a moment before speaking once more. “Something like a way to reset the game. Apparently it’s a way that links us with alternate versions of players that play the same game. Usually the Scratch is used to help get out ‘doomed timelines’.”

“‘Doomed timelines’?” You repeat, eyes narrowing. You didn’t like the sound of that.

You see Rox shift beside you. A rare, somber look crosses her face.

“Doomed timelines in SBURB can also be known as ‘game over’ for the players. At first, it just starts off as one bad thing after another. Soon enough, it’ll end up killing the players. Doomed timelines are not pretty fates.”

You narrow your eyes further at this before looking back at James.

“...What will this have to do with me?”

James hums thoughtfully, a conflicted look on his face. Finally, with a sigh, his cobalt eyes connect with your shaded eyes.

“We don’t know if it’ll be enough...but perhaps you can initiate the Scratch.”

“Me?”

“You strength is nothing to joke about, Broderick…...but it also might not be enough.” James frowns. “Roxanne and Jacob have told me that you may need specific tools to create the Scratch. But perhaps you’ll be able to scrape it with your own brute strength...”

You blink. You stare at James...then Rox...and then Jake. With a deep sigh, you shrug and send a small smirk at them.

“All of this sounds like crazy sh**, but I’ll try to do the Scratch-thing when I get to the place.” You pause for a moment before speaking again. “By the way, what does the thing I have to slice look like?”

“A large disk.” James replies calmly, tapping his tobacco pipe on an ash tray. “Hard to miss, really.”

You blink and snap back to the present, finding yourself even closer to the floating disk in the sea of lava. With a huff, you step off of the accelerator slowly until you’re hovering directly above your new destination.

With a grunt, you jump off of your rocket-board, one hand holding your hat down onto your head as the hot wind rushes past your face. With a silent tap, your feet meet the surface of the disk and you bend your legs to absorb the impact--you barely made a sound and you mentally give yourself a pat on the back.

You sigh softly as you reach into your Strife Deck, pulling out your trusty katana. For a moment, you simply twirl it in your right hand before setting it on your shoulder. You lower your gaze down to the black disk below your feet, the orange glow of the lava reflecting off of its onyx surface.

Carefully, you lower your sword from your shoulder and gently scrape the silver blade across the surface. You blink when not even a nick appears. Your blade’s pretty sharp--you take blade-care seriously--but the surface of the disk wasn’t breached at all.

With a hum, you gaze down at the disk sharply, shifting your feet into a ready position as you raise your blade up. You grip your katana with two hands and gaze down at the disk with a raised eyebrow. You take a deep breath and--

CRACK!

--swing down from top to bottom. Instead of a smooth, clean cut, you grunt as you’re met with a solid rebound. You jerk back, feet sliding backwards across the surface. Finding your footing again, you look down at the disk with mild surprise, your hands stinging ever so slightly.

Only a gash the size of two meters was present, light seeping through the crack. With a huff, you shrug. Your friends did say that certain things were needed to make the Scratch. Still…you sliced through a meteor. This disk must be made of some sh**ty powerful stuff.

You unclench your right hand from the hilt of your blade, holding onto your sword with your left. You uncurl your fingers and sigh softly at the small gash on your palm--cutting through the black leather of your glove and your skin. Since you didn’t cut cleanly through, you were met with solid resistance, which then lead your hands to get f**ked up.

You shake your hand out, a few drops of red landing on the disk. You adjust your stance. Perhaps you can try again--

Suddenly, you sense a dark presence heading towards you. You narrow your eyes and shift your gaze skyward, two hands gripping--you ignore the sting--the hilt of your katana.

Your gaze watches a mass of black dive down from the sky. The newcomer slows to a halt with a flap of his black wings, landing on the disk meters across from you. Your skin prickles the longer you look at the...person before you.

Blood drips from the obsidian blade in the hand of the newcomer. The black, doll-like hand--why does he only have one arm?--is soaked in blood too. When you lift your gaze to your new opponent’s face, you blink in slight remembrance.

Just this morning, you had the strangest dream of black doll-like people in a purple kingdom of some sort. The most weird thing about the dream though was the fact you recognized the doll-like creatures. Rox always drew them for you. She had called them...Dersites?

Yes. You believe that’s what she called them.

You gaze at the Dersite across from you, taking in the...tacky, colorful jester hat he was wearing and the dark scowl the other had. You blink and set your blade on your shoulder, inclining your head as you narrow your gaze.

“Are you the guy who’s been messing with Heir?” You finally ask, lips pressed in a stoic line.

The Dersite inclines his head before snarling at you, a dark sneer on his lips.

“What the f**k are you talking about?” He flicks his blade to the side, causing heavy drops of blood to scatter along the disk. “What do you want?”

You study the Dersite closely, taking in the full form of him. Your fingers tense around your blade as your instincts flared.

This guy was bad news.

WH: the soul of this guy...is my enemy.

You mentally frown for a moment. Was this the Egbert-kid’s enemy? A Dersite guy with...wings and tentacles?

Your thoughts then flicker to Dave. Jegus, Dave. Dave was nearby. If this Dersite went and found Dave…

You narrow your gaze at the apparent murderer before you.

“...How about a fight, you piece of sh**?” You finally grind out. You stab your sword into the crack you had recently made. Your golden-orange eyes burn through your shades and you see the white eyes of the Dersite flicker in between interest and annoyance. “Find me on LOWAS.”

You need to lead this f**ker away from Dave.

Without another word, you jump backwards and land on your rocket-board, which was ready for you. Stepping on the accelerator, you take one last glance at the Dersite--you see his hunger for blood, and you know he’s going to follow you.

You blast off into the distance, heading out of the planet’s atmosphere. With a huff, you squint your eyes at the gray clouds. Once you made it through, you were greeted by an empty, black space. Surprisingly, you could breath, so you continued to rocket forward.

You then dart your eyes around. What kind of place would be described as shady and windy? You see a bright, blue light with some sort of golden planet beside it. Nope. Not LOWAS.

You direct your gaze to a planet that’s a soft ocean-blue hue. Light the color of pink, yellow and hints of purple--nope. Not that planet either.

You squint and turn your gaze to a...purple dot that’s far, far, far away from where you are. That must be Derse--the place you dreamed about.

With a gruff sigh, you finally turn your gaze to a...shady-looking planet. Clouds cover the planet’s surface and you can barely make out glowing spots within the masses of water vapor. That must be LOWAS.

Stepping back on the accelerator, you fly towards the dusky-looking planet. Closing in, you see that the small lights in the cloud are moving. Raising an eyebrow, you go through the clouds and--

F**k.

Did a bug just knock against your sunglasses? As you rush through the clouds, you see that there are multiple...fireflies flying lazily inside the gray haze. With a grimace, you keep your lips shut--you are not going to get one of those little f**kers in your mouth.

Finally, you break through the clouds. With a grunt, you shift on your board, slowing down slightly so you could take in your surroundings. Crouching down onto your left knee on your board, you rest your right elbow on your upright knee, glancing around silently.

You caught sight of glowing trees, rivers of black...oil and small mountains of blue rock. You glance around again for a moment.

You don’t see the Egbert-kid anywhere nearby. Oh well, you’ll probably see John later after fighting the Dersite-guy. You stand up and move a foot onto the accelerator, blasting off in a random direction.

While flying through the sky, you finally find an good open spot for a fight. The place was clear of obstacles that would have hindered you in a scuffle. Diving down, you finally hover to a stop and jump off of your rocket-board.

Your feet meet the surface of LOWAS. You take a deep breath, humming softly at the change in temperature. It was cooler here than you had expected, but you weren't complaining.

You pull a roll of bandages from your captchalogue deck, tugging your gloves off with your teeth. You set your gloves to the side before you start tending to the cuts on your hands. Now that your gloves are gone, the slices look pretty nasty. With a grimace, you roll the bandages around the cuts; you’ll take better care of them later.

With a sigh, you store your bandages away and slip your gloves back on, ignoring the way how pink is already starting to stain the bandages. You shut your eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath.

And then the presence is back.

You blink your eyes open and tilt your head to the side in time for your katana to fly past your head from behind. Your sword stabs itself into the blue stone of the ground smoothly. You then roll your shoulders as if your life hadn’t been threatened mere milliseconds ago.

“...Cheap shot,” You finally drawl out loud as you hear the flap of wings in the air.

You hear a growl and the Dersite lands on the ground across from you. He sends you a nasty glare, his own sword still dripping heavily with blood as he stares you down.

With a sigh, you move forward and grab the hilt of your blade, pulling it out of the ground without a hint of effort. You lift your gaze, shift your stance, and bend your knees.

You don’t give the Dersite a chance to adjust before you dash forward, your flashstep instantly bringing yourself into your opponent's face. The Dersite jerks in surprise and barely brings his sword up to block your slash. Sparks fly through the air, illuminating your face for a split second.

This Dersite wasn’t Dave. That meant you could let loose.

Lifting a leg you send a solid kick to the Dersite’s gut. Your opponent chokes on air and he’s sent flying back. Already on the balls of your feet, you dart forward, blade scraping the ground as you dash after the Dersite.

Your enemy regains his footing with a flap of his wings, his doll-like feet digging into the ground. With spittle on his lips, the Dersite glares fiercely at you, sharp teeth bared.

“Little...sh**...!” He grinds out.

You merely blink in return before ducking forward to dodge a slash that would’ve sliced open your chest.

Yo.” You comment idly as you then sweep the legs out from under the Dersite. “Watch your feet.”

Your opponent snarls at you as he loses his balance before flapping his wings again, flying up into the sky. You blink and stare up at the Dersite, black feathers falling from the sky.

“What now, f**ker!?” He roars at you.

You stare for a moment, lifting one hand to adjust your shades. The Dersite flies around for a moment, as if mocking you--which was what he was most likely doing.

With a sigh, you reach into your Strife Deck and bring out your shuriken. With a flick of your left wrist, the ninja stars are in your hand. Lifting your gaze up, you calculate the distance and strength you would need before you send the sharp stars towards the flying Dersite.

The Dersite widens his white eyes in surprise before he flies out of the way, narrowly avoiding the sharp objects. Once he avoids all of the shuriken, he barks a laugh at you.

“Your aim is sh**!” He sneers.

You merely blink before you yank your left hand back behind yourself. The Dersite blinks at you as a small smirk crawls onto your lips.

“When your aim is sh**,” You murmur. “Find another way with wit.”

The Dersite has no time to respond before shuriken stab themselves into his wings and unprotected back. He snarls in anger and slight pain as he strains to stay in the air. He glances back at his wings with a scowl before he turns his head to look back at you.

“How did you--?!” He cuts himself off suddenly as he stares at you for a while longer.

His white eyes narrow at you before widening in surprise.

“Ah, I see you’ve finally notice.” You move your left hand up in front of your face so the Dersite can get a better look. “It’s a Strife style I rarely use.”

Wires wrap themselves around your fingers, connected to the ninja stars you had recently pulled back in order to stab the Dersite in the back. You prefer your Sword-Kind Strife style, but the Wire-Kind is something you are also quite adept in.

You step back and yank on the wires on your left hand harshly, snapping the Dersite out of the sky. He falls towards you, a snarling mass of feathers and flailing limbs.

With a sharp breath, you step to the side to avoid the falling body and bring your sword up. You switch your grip on your katana so you could stab downwards as the Dersite falls into a heap at your feet.

However, it seems that the Dersite also has a few tricks up his metaphorical sleeve. Before you could stab downwards, you see a blur of black come at you from your right.

With a grunt, you adjust the grip on your blade once again and disconnect the wires on your left hand with a swing of your blade. Bending your knees, you quickly jump back, barely dodging the obsidian blade that would’ve beheaded you.

You screech to a halt a few meters away, kicking up gray clouds of dust. You huff when you feel something warm and wet trickle down from your right cheek. You lift your right hand up, still holding your katana as you rub your stinging cheek with the back of your hand. You move the back of your hand up to view.

...

Huh. Looks like he got you.

Red blood smudges your glove and some of your skin. You puff out a breath as you then lift your gaze back up to the Dersite. You note that the sword was being wielded by a black tentacle, which was attached to the Dersite’s torso.

With a growl, the Dersite maneuvers the tentacle, moving his blade to slice through the wires that were still wrapped around him. Your opponent scowls as he stretches his wings out, snarling in pain as a few shuriken fell out of his wings. He glares at you, snatching his sword from his tentacle.

“Who...the f**k...are you…!?” He spat out with venom.

You blink, shifting your stance. You level your blade at the Dersite, gazing at him over your shades as you ignore the trickle of blood on your cheek.

“The name’s Bro Strider.” You incline your head, considering for a moment before speaking again. “And I’m gonna guess your name is Jacka**.”

“It’s Jack Noir you incompetent fool!” He immediately roars back and you bite back a snort of amusement.

“Oh, I was correct.” You get into a ready position, lowering your stance. “It’s very not nice to meet you, Jacka**.”

The Dersite, Jack, snarls and lunges at you, obsidian blade rising into the air as he flew up slightly. You quickly brace yourself, clashing with Jack as he swings down at you.

Jack is pretty strong, you’ll have to admit, as you push back against him. Narrowing your gaze, you shove forward, throwing Jack off balance.

The Dersite scowls at this and retreats a bit, flying up into the sky again. With a low whistle, you call your rocket-board to you, which was still hovering a distance away from the fight.

With a rumble, the board rockets toward you and you jump up, landing on it smoothly and meet Jack in the sky. He snarls at you, flapping his wings as he backs up a bit.

You snap your left hand out, wires whipping through the air sharply. However, the Dersite sees them this time, flapping his wings again to avoid the attack. You don’t let this deter you as you step back on the accelerator of your board, blasting after him.

Leaning on one side of your board and crouching down, you flip upside down, your hat still miraculously staying on. Soaring above Jack, you time it perfectly and push off of your board, sword drawn back as you lunge at him, gravity helping you to fall faster.

Jack grunts in surprise and raises his sword to block your slash. Sparks fly through the air once more as he snarls at you. Right hand still on your blade, you move your left hand back, fingers curling. With a rush of air, your fist meets Jack’s face.

Jack’s head jerks back sharply with the blow. Tucking your legs into your chest, you finally send a diving double kick into the Dersite’s gut, sending the winged, doll-like person plummeting to the ground with a strangled cough escaping Jack’s lips.

You use the force of your own kick to land on your rocket-board that flies by in time to catch you. With a step on the accelerator, you chase after the falling form of Jack, sword raising in a stabbing motion.

Grabbing the hilt of your blade with two hands, you jump off of your rocket-board again. You raise your sword above your head and stab through Jack’s left wing. Ignoring Jack’s screech of pain and anger, you push forward until you both hit the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust.

The dust settles slowly, but you know that you have Jack pinned to the ground. Finally, when your vision is clear, you find that your left knee is pressing onto Jack’s chest, your right foot stepping onto his left wing. Your blade is still stabbed into his wing, close to where your left foot is.

“Looks like,” You incline your head as you look down stoically at Jack. “It’s my win, Jacka**.”

Jack snarls at you, sharp teeth trying to snap at you, but you keep him pinned with your knee. You captchalog your rocket-board when it flies by. With a huff, you find that your breathing is a little labored. Wow, you haven’t fought so seriously in a while--

A green spark catches your eyes. You blink and glance to the left to see that his right hand--his only hand--is starting to glow green. Actually, to be more specific, the golden ring on the Dersite’s hand is glowing green.

Suddenly, Jack barks out a laugh below you; the laugh is loud and obnoxious. You turn your gaze back to him to tell him to shut the f**k up, but then you see the smug look in his eyes. He grins maliciously up at you, spitting blood in your direction.

Checkmate, Strider…!”

The green glow grows brighter. Jack lashes out at you with his tentacles, forcing you to retreat. You wrench your sword out of his wing and back up a good distance away. The green, flashy light grows brighter. Luckily, you still have your shades.

Cautiously, you watch Jack’s form slowly get up. Finally on one of his knees, you watch in surprise as his wings disappear for a second, retreating into his body. Narrowing your eyes against the bright light, you can see his face…

That face looks a whole lot like the face of your friend’s dog. Except his furry face is black. Jack’s new ears twitch and his nose sniffs the air. The wings return in a spark of green light. Slowly, the Dersite gets up on his two feet, sword sheathed back into his chest.

The green light dies out and you take in the new form of Jack--...holy f**k. Wasn’t Jake’s dog an overpowered, warping beast? Sh**, Rox told you something about sprites and stuff. Does that mean--?

Jack is suddenly gone. In a spark of green, he’s no longer in front of you.

Your right hand violently jerks to the side, nearly popping your arm out of its socket. You glance at your hand with surprise and see that your katana is missing. You barely catch a glimpse of green light and black fur before you turn your gaze to the front of yourself once again--!

Well...you didn’t expect...this...to happen…

With a cough, you gaze down at your sword. It was sticking out of your God d**n chest. With another cough, red stains the front of your white polo. Your legs are starting to shake now and you suddenly feel drained of energy.

You feel yourself get shoved to the ground harshly, your back throbbing with pain once it met the rocky surface of LOWAS. Blood flows from your lips as you gaze up at the smug, snarling face of Jack. His wings spread out, visibly preening himself over his victory.

“Looks like it’s my win, Strider.”

And, because he’s an a**, he twists your blade and stabs down further into your chest. You cough out another mouthful of blood. Shades askew, you merely send a glare at him. Jack’s smug grin twitches downward. Apparently he doesn’t like how defiant you are even on your deathbed. Ha, suck on that, Jacka**.

Jack clicks his tongue, releasing his hold on your blade, he steps back and--

“Don’t think I didn’t notice that brat on that building.” The last few breaths you have freeze in your chest at Jack’s words. “Since I’m finally done with you, I’ll go after that little sh**.”

You cough again. Sh**, the blood is flowing faster now. D**n it! Dave won’t be able to…!

“You...f-f**ker…!” You barely spat out.

Jack roars with laughter, green sparks flowing off of his body as he throws his head back. He barks in triumph and suddenly...he stops. He just stops.

As black spots dot your vision, you watch with slight confusion as Jack seems to stare at something. With another wet, weak cough, you move your head barely to try and follow his gaze.

All you see is a blue blob. F**k, you can’t keep your eyes open for much longer. Before you’re slipping completely into darkness, you hear clashing metal and roars of rage.

And then...you feel pressure removed from your chest and you hear--

“S-Sorry…” A shaky voice chokes out.

Oh sh**, was that Egbert?

F**k. You can’t hear anything anymore. It’s dark too. Wherever you are, you can’t do a single f**king thing to help your little bro or Egbert--

Oh.

Another God of the Heart.

Okay, now you’re hearing voices. F**king brilliant.

Haha, he has fire.

He is a broken but healing soul. He was manipulated by the heart of another.

But he seems cool. He helped Breath’s kid out, didn’t he?

Oh, the Heir? Ah...that poor boy. Breath feels quite sad for him.

Aren’t we all. Heck, Time, Space and Light are taking a liking to him. Too bad the rules of the game are f**ked up. If he uses other Aspects that aren’t his main too many times in a row, he’ll be ripped to shreds.

You blink. Finally, you can see a magenta light above you. You furrow your eyebrows as you stare up at the light.

“What the f**k is going on?” Surprisingly, you no longer feel pain in your chest.

Ah. He opened his eyes. What should we say?

F**k if I know. We need to send him back so he can help out the Heir. The kid’s barely gotten any sleep lately. And--yikes, okay. Jack Noir is gonna get the upper hand soon.

WILL ONE OF YOU JUST SEND THE THIEF IN!?

You raise an eyebrow at the loud, new voice that seemed to stand out among the other voices. You think you see a small green light next to the mass of magenta.

Alright, alright, yeesh, Space, calm down.

HOW CAN I NOT CALM DOWN WHEN THIS PRECIOUS CHILD IS HURTING HIMSELF BY USING MY POWER! OH MY GOODNESS, HE HASN’T EVEN NOTICED HOW MESSED UP HIS ARM IS YET!

Yikes. That sounds bad. Okay. Hey, Broderick Strider, you’re going to be sent back with super powers. Sounds cool, right?

You blink. Everything is just….what the sh** is happening anymore?

“What--?”

Anyways, good luck. Watch out for the Heir, won’t you? The kid hardly takes care of himself. Bye~!

The magenta light grows brighter, forcing you to shut your eyes--hey, where the f**k are your shades? You grumble mentally as you wait for the light to die out.

You sense that the light is gone and you slowly open your eyes. The first thing you notice is that your shades are back. Nice.

You carefully glance around, taking a quick survey of your surroundings. You blink as you see that Derse is drifting a few miles away to where you’re...floating? Holly sh**, you’re floating.

You glance down, causing you to catch sight of your...new clothes. You blink. Magenta. You are wearing f**king magenta. Surprisingly, you’re not too bothered about the color. You flex your fingers, finding that your fingerless gloves are still present.

A new energy thrums beneath your skin. You feel...a heartbeat. Or rather, multiple heartbeats. You lift your gaze and you see...multiple orbs of light. They’re like colorful stars, beacons in the space in front of you.

...

F**k, you had to go back.

If you’re near Derse, you’ll have to hurry. Those voices from before were starting to sound worried. Did they also call Egbert a Heir? Whatever the f**k that means...you’ll probably find out later.

Reaching into your captchalogue deck, you pull your rocket-board out. Starting the engine and stepping onto your board, you glance back in time to see...a stone, magenta bed--there’s a strange heart symbol in the middle, and there’s blood staining it.

So you did die…...but then you came back. With a wry smirk, you shake your head, your new hood brushing against your ears as you move.

“Jesus f**king Christ. This is insane.”

With one final sigh, you narrow your gaze as you look at the light of Skaia. Stepping back on the accelerator, you blast off. You don’t think you would’ve been able to go any faster without your board as you move closer and closer to the blue dot of Skaia. Once you make it to Skaia, you’re going to start heading towards LOWAS.

“Egbert.” You mutter. “You better stay alive until I get there.”

~~

Finally, you’re past the clouds of LOWAS and glowing butterflies are following you for some reason. What the f**k? And--holy sh**, no.

While Jacka** is a threatening figure about to stab poor Egbert in the back, the thing that makes your blood run cold the most was the...utterly defeated look on the kid’s face. His blue eyes seem to blank out behind his glasses. Like he’s no longer there anymore. Like he was already dead.

It was like...he had already done this. So. Many. Times.

You shot your left hand forward and reach out instinctively. You’re f**king far away from Egbert, so how the he** are you going to reach him--!?

...

Oh. Well, this is a thing.

You gaze in mild surprise at the magenta threads that stretch out from your fingertips. Suddenly, the area grays out. All you can see are...two main orbs of light. One orb is a bright green, but it’s corrupted, filled with an inky darkness. The second orb is a gentle sky-blue; however, silver cracks line the surface--you also see...three smaller orbs connected to the blue one? They’re colored...red...yellow...and green.

Wait, are these...souls?

You don’t give yourself anymore time to think. Snapping to attention, your strings extend out and attach to the blue soul. Jumping off of your board, you fly down and land on the surface of LOWAS--and hey, there’s your sword, bloody and thrown to the side. You grab it quickly with your right hand, yanking Egbert out of the air with your strings.

You wince slightly when Egbert’s body jerks out of the sky and towards where you’re currently standing. However, his body is out of the way of the obsidian sword that would’ve stabbed him in the chest--kudos to you.

You readjust the grip you have on the strings, slowing down Egbert’s rapid descent a bit. He lands right in front of you, flat on his back as he struggles for breath. Whoops. Looks like the landing was a bit rough. Well, your only excuse is that you’re not that adjusted with your new powers yet.

You see John’s eyes snap open. He’s alert again and you’re mildly surprised by the sharp calculating gaze he has.

“F**king he**, kid.” You reach your left hand out as you grip your katana tightly in your right. “C’mon, can you stand?”

He slowly lifts his gaze to meet your shaded ones. You move your hood back.

You’ve met old veterans from wars in bars--not for pleasure or anything; it was just to get something to burn your throat. The veterans all drank themselves silly and you hear them babble about their missions. All of them--even though some of them smiled--had the same haunted look in their eyes.

...

John had the eyes of a veteran. And that didn’t settle right with you...

“...A Thief...of Heart…?”

Egbert’s timid voice snaps you out of your thoughts and you let out a soft sigh.

==> Bro: Be the Reader.

==> Reader: See what happens next.

“Is that what I am now?” Bro snorted slightly in amusement, tugging at a corner of his God Tier t-shirt, studying the outfit. “...A Theif of Heart, huh? Has a nice ring to it, I guess...”

“You’re a Thief of Heart….!” John’s voice cracked slightly as he repeated his statement more firmly.

“We’ve established that, Egder--...” Bro blinked, staring at John with mild alarm behind his shades. “...Oh sh**...are you….crying?”

John blinked, more tears slipping past his eyes as he let out a breathless chuckle. How could he not? He lifted his iGlasses up and wiped at his eyes feverishly, a shaky, happy laugh escaping his lips.

“...L-Let’s talk later.” John managed to get out. The ravenet set his iGlasses back on, his blue eyes quickly growing cold and focused again. “Jack’s still here.”

Bro blinked in idle surprise at the sudden change in character before sharpening his own gaze. With his left hand, Bro pulled John to his feet. As he did so, the blonde noted the red scratches on the ravenet’s left arm that looked just shy of bleeding.

“Your arm…”

John merely smiled wearily, flexing the fingers of his left hand as he steadied himself on his two feet. The Breath swirled around him in soft wisps; some of the threads of wind actually brushed through Bro’s hair, as if checking that the blonde was truly alright.

“A minor problem, Bro.” John moved his right hand to the side and brought out his Battleaxe of Haneul. “Let’s get back to the fight.”

“......” Bro studied John for a long moment, checking if the teen was lying. Finally, with a sigh, the blonde muttered. “...Right.”

Bro twirled his katana in his hand before shouldering it. Both him and John look up into the air to see Jack waiting for them, green sparks running up and down his body.

“How are we gonna go about this?” Bro commented. “He f**king warps around like nobody’s business.”

John hefted his battleaxe, watching as Jack hovered in the air.

“The main tip in fighting this guy is to watch your back.” John smiled wearily. “It’s pretty much his favorite target.”

Bro nodded, watching at how Jack’s wings spread out in agitation.

“So we watch each other’s backs. Gotcha.”

The two humans drift off of the ground. The Breath surrounded John, and Bro gained a magenta aura.

“You better not die, kid.” Bro side-eyed the teen. “We still need to talk about a sh** ton of things.”

The Strider is mildly happy to see that John shot a wide grin back at him instead of looking at him with a haunted gaze.

“Same to you, Bro.” The Heir said with slight cheekiness.

With that, the two fly up into the sky and engage Jack in combat.

==> Reader: Check up on Dave for a moment.

Dave alchemized a few objects with what he had in his apartment. He huffed as he adjusted the tie of his new suit, red eyes glancing up at the dark sky for a moment.

Bro had been gone for quite a while. The younger Strider wondered if the blonde was coming back at all or not. For a second, Dave had felt a heart-clenching feeling earlier--like something bad happened. Now...he felt lighter. Whatever bad thing that happened just suddenly became good all of a sudden. So Dave didn’t feel too troubled…

Suddenly, a glow of white red light appeared on the corner of his rooftop. Dave snapped his gaze to it in surprise, jumping back quickly. He brought a sheathed katana from his Strife Deck in an instant, wearily watching the light grew brighter and brighter.

The blonde drew his sword out and leveled his blade at the flash of bright light on the corner of the rooftop. Finally, the light slowly died out. Dave watched as a figure was revealed--

...

...Slowly, Dave’s eyes widened behind his shades, but he kept the rest of his expression blank.

“...What the f**k…?” Dave finally murmured, lowering his sword just slightly.

Two floating turntables spun in the air. The newcomer stepped forward, releasing a drawn out sigh as he moved a hand through his ash-blonde hair, dusting some snow off of his shoulders. He glanced around quickly before he looked at Dave for a long moment, the turntables disappearing from view. The ash-blonde smirked wearily at Dave before glancing over at Crowsprite, who floating sulkily on the side.

“...F**king he**......I’m running on a tight schedule now.” The (not-really) stranger muttered under his breath when he glanced at a device on his wrist--must be some some sort of watch but Dave has never seen one like that before. The newcomer looked back at Dave again. “I’ll probably see you later. But now, I gotta save my best bro’s a**.”

Dave only had time to blink before the newcomer jumped forward and touched Crowsprite, completing the second prototype of the sprite. There was a flash of orange, expanding wings, a flicker of a snake-like tail--

And the newcomer, in his new form, vanished, leaving a few orange feathers and yellow drops of blood behind. Dave blinked slowly, processing what had just happened...

“...What the flying f**king he**?”

==> Reader: Go see how John and Bro are doing.

“Watch your left, kid!”

Bro skidded back, gloved hand brushing the ground as he found his footing again, kicking up gray clouds of dirt. His golden-orange eyes were gazing intently at John, who twisted out of the way of a slash from Jack.

“Got it!” John replied before flipping back into the air, raising a hand above his head. “Bro, back up a bit! I’m gonna let loose!”

Bro did as he was told flying up a bit before moving backwards. John’s eyes glowed brightly as he summoned multiple tornados of wind around himself. Jack snarled in frustration as he beat his wings against the multiple air currents.

John suddenly appears from behind one of the tornados, battleaxe slicing through the air. Jack barely noticed the teen and warped out of the way quickly, reappearing above the Heir. Raising his blade above his head, Jack dived down, wings folding in on themselves.

John quickly lifted his gaze up and switched his battleaxe out with the Hammer of Enlil. The blunt surface of the head of the Heir’s hammer met with the sharp edge of Jack’s blade.

Struggling at a deadlock, the two glared at each other. Finally, John’s finger twitched to the trigger at the end of the hilt of his hammer. Jack followed the motion and widened his white eyes--!

BANG!

Jack is thrown back by the explosive swing of John’s hammer. The ravenet himself glanced down at his Hammer of Enlil with mild surprise before he grinned slightly.

“A gun-hammer…” He hefted it over his right shoulder as he leveled an icy gaze at Jack, a small grin on his lips. “I’ve always wanted to try one out.”

Jack snarled in return, flapping his wings as he flew forward to take a stab at John--

“Yo, don’t forget about me, Jacka**.” A certain Strider called from behind the beast, hovering in the air.

Threads stick out from Jack’s chest and the Dersite howled in anger. He warped away--but the strings still stuck to him.

“How convenient. The string stays attached to the soul.” Bro muttered to himself. “I wonder what the limit is for the length of ‘string’ I have.”

With a harsh jerk, Jack is thrown into the ground below, smashing through the blue, stone surface. Bro flicked his wrist and Jack is brought up into the air. The blonde grunted as he swung the Dersite in an arch through the sky.

Jack snarled, about to try and warp again but--but John is suddenly there, Hammer of Enlil at the ready. If John was the batter, then Jack was the baseball.

“Batter up, kid!” Bro called with a small smirk, his Heart strings disconnecting at the last moment.

John grinned, his eyes glowing brightly as his friends cheered in the back of his mind.

CRACK!

Jack is sent spiralling back, stars bursting across his eyes. He’s sent plummeting into the ground again, crashing and creating a cloud of dust. John caught his breath while Bro passively floated in the air. John and Bro watch the cloud closely, waiting for Jack to--

Suddenly, the Dersite warped behind John, a feral snarl on his lips; blood was dripping from Jack’s forehead. Bro sweared mentally and snapped a hand out.

Jack roared in anger when a glowing, magenta hand wrapped around his throat and another around his only arm, yanking him back away from the Heir. John wasted no time and hastily flew out of the way, regaining his distance. Jack wrenched himself away from the hands and warped a distance away, snarling at them. Bro, on the other hand, stared in slight astonishment.

Bro blinked as he gazed at the floating, magenta hands. The new appendages reminded the elder Strider of a skeleton's hands, bones clean of skin and blood. The blonde blinked as he watched one of the hands drift left and right, turning over and curling its fingers, and Bro himself had actually felt the movement--like he had another hand.

“...Neat.” He finally muttered after a moment of processing before waving his own hands around, summoning more skeleton-like hands. “Just like puppeteering Cal all over again…”

Bro raised his gaze to Jack, who was now regarding the Strider wearily. The blonde then smirked, his teeth showing as he then sent the hands at Jack, magenta threads whipping out from the tips of their fingers.

Jack hissed as he weaved through the air, avoiding the strings. He then snarled when he had to avoid a tornado of blue wind from John. The two had already been annoying flies at the beginning, now they were even bigger nuisances.

With a roar, Jack flapped his wings and flew above all of their attacks. He sheathed his sword into his chest and raised his hand above his head. Bro heard John make a noise of alarm and the blonde turned his head in time to see the Heir beside him.

John snapped a hand out and gripped Bro’s arm tightly. Before the Thief could question the teen, John warped them out of the way of a bright, red light. Bro stomach flipped from the sudden shift in position, but he immediately focused his gaze on the red branches that suddenly appeared where they were once floating.

“What the f**k is that?”

“The......those are...the Red Miles…” John wheezed out.

Bro blinked and immediately turned his gaze to John. The teen was now gripping his left arm tightly, his face pinched slightly with pain. His weapon was missing at the moment; probably stored in his Strife Deck or something for now. And his arm--holy cr**...!

Lacerations lined the teen’s pale skin. Each cut dripped with blood as John panted, watching the Red Miles with sharp eyes.

Kid, I thought you said that your arm was a minor probl--”

“It is.” John huffed back, sweat beading at the side of his head. He grinned weakly at the Strider. “You can’t worry about me now, Bro. You need to focus on Jack.”

Bro narrowed his gaze, turning to look at the teen fully. His clothes moved with the soft breeze that went by for a moment.

“John, your arm is f**king bleeding. And there are two things that I need to do during this fight. The first thing is to watch your a** so you don’t get yourself killed. The second thing is kick Jacka**’s a**. Am I f**king clear, John Egbert? You’re James’s son, so there’s no way in he** you’re going to die on my d**n watch.”

John blinked his eyes rapidly in surprise, the pain of his arm momentarily forgotten.

“I…”

Bro suddenly stiffened his back and moved forward, pushing John out of the way before flying back himself. Just then, a branch of the Red Miles shot between them, barely grazing their bodies. John had to fly back further to avoid other branches of Red Miles, right hand still grasping his left arm.

Once out of danger, John turned his gaze to Bro. The Strider was holding his own perfectly fine. The blonde flew between branches of red, making sure he wasn’t caught--

Jack was suddenly there behind Bro, sword raised and sharp teeth bared in a malicious grin.

John widened his eyes and he moved forward. Sound seemed to die out as a green glow surrounded him. He ignored the screaming pain shooting up his arm as he appeared in front of Bro’s unprotected back. He pulled his Warhammer of Zillyhoo out of his Strife Deck, ready to block Jack’s stab--

John’s body locked up suddenly, and he felt a familiar suffocating feeling in chest. He hacked violently, eyes widening as he tried his best to keep his hammer steady. He could taste the oil building up in his throat and mouth.

‘Of all the times! Why f**king now--!?’

The tip of that midnight-black blade was already pushing on his chest. Jack grinned, sharp teeth revealed as he sneered darkly at John.

John could hear his friends screaming and yelling in the background. He heard Bro turn around behind him; he heard the blonde let out a sharp breath and a mutter of his name and a swear.

John blinked as he felt the sword pierce his God Tier shirt, a centimeter away from pushing into his flesh. The ravenet’s thoughts rushed. He still needed to save them all--his family, his friends. He needed to protect them! He couldn’t--!

A small, accepting smile spread across his face when Jack’s sword pricked the skin of his chest, about to skewer him.

Well...at least he protected Bro in the end. His Heroic death wasn’t entirely useless--

Klang!

John flinched in surprise as sparks flew into the air. He then widened his eyes in surprise when he felt the pressure of the blade on his chest leave. There was no draining feeling of being skewered, and John looked down in surprise for the second time that day.

The stab wasn’t deep. It was only a small nick on his chest. He wasn’t skewered through like those other times…

F**king John and your sacrificial bullsh**.

Glowing, orange feathers floated in John's vision as he stared up at an equally, bright, orange back. Citrine wings were spread out, protectively blocking John from Jack’s wrath--it reminded the Heir of a warm sunrise that forced the bitter, cold night away.

John’s breath stuttered in his chest as he stared at the back of his savior.

“...D-Dave…?” Not ‘Davesprite’. That was his mistake all those years ago. It must've hurt Davesprite so much to be called that instead of simply ‘Dave’. “Is…….how are you--?”

Orange, glowing feathers drift around gently in the breeze. The wings--beautiful, like a sunset--stretch out and curl, flexing in the air. The fluff of feathers around the other’s neck bristles for a moment before relaxing.

The orange sprite turned around, wings stretching out as he hovered over John, a sword in his right hand. The blonde--or would it be ginger now because his hair is orange?--drifted down to be at the same height with John, a hand reaching out.

...Egbert, buddy…” His red-orange eyes peered over his shades, searching, before the eyebrows furrowed with concern. “...Breathe, man.

John didn’t even realize he was wheezing. Why was he wheezing--because Dave shouldn’t be here like this. Just remembering the hurt in Davesprite’s eyes--Dave didn’t deserve John’s sh**. Dave didn’t have to go back in time to save John’s stupid a**. John wasn’t going to do that again--so why was another Davesprite floating before him?

“...No…” John whispered, voice horrified. “I was supposed to...I--...!”

The taloned hand that was outstretched towards John finally settled--on the ravenet’s head. Davesprite gently ruffled John’s hair.

Hey…” The sprite murmured softly. “Hey...John. Don’t look like that. C’mon.

“...I don’t know what the f**k is going on,” Bro spoke up suddenly. “But Jacka** is still here.”

As if to confirm Bro’s words, Jack let out a loud howl, the sound echoing and pounding in all of their ears. The three watched as Jack arched forward threateningly, wings spread out and ears twitching with irritation. A green aura surrounded the winged man-dog, crackling like electricity.

Davesprite grunted and rolled his eyes behind his shades, his lips pulled down in a small frown.

Fine. F**king fine. We’ll kick this sh**head’s a** first.

John blinked owlishly when an orange wing brushed along his shoulders, bringing him close to Davesprite’s side. Orange-Dave ruffled John’s hair.

I know everything, John.” The said Heir stiffened in surprise, eyes blowing wide. He expected the sprite to start accusing him or yelling at him for his failures. But he was then blindsided by Davesprite’s next words. “You’re not alone anymore, okay?

You’re not alone anymore, okay?

The words echoed through John’s head, and it made him feel...relieved. F**k, this timeline’s Dave already told him that--but that Dave didn’t know. If there wasn’t a life-threatening enemy in front of them, John would’ve burst into tears, laughing in a near hysterical way because holy f**k--someone beside him knew something about the horrendous future ahead.

“...Th-Thank you.” John finally choked out in response. “And I’m so--!”

If that sentence ends with ‘sorry’,” Davesprite cut in sharply. “I’m going to cuddle you to death until you understand that you have nothing to apologize about, got that?

John clamped his mouth shut, looking conflicted before he stiffly nodded his head. The ravenet then sent a narrowed gaze to Jack, who drifted above, wings flapping. The dog-man was getting antsy, ears twitching as he glared at his three opponents.

“F**king more pieces of sh** to deal with…!?”

He glared at all of them, silently seething. With a snap of his jaws, he finally sneered at John, singling him out among everyone else.

“...I let a person go who had a slightly similar look to you.” John stiffened and Jack widened his smirk. “Tell me...if I were to leave now and go after that fedora-wearing b*****d...how would you react? Would you get angry? Scream in rage? Or would you…” He grinned darkly at John. “Would you break and cry? Fall apart easily? Heh, I bet it would be the latter--”

Jack choked on a snarl of pain when there’s suddenly magenta strings wrapped around the soul within his chest. And Davesprite appeared in front of the Dersite, blade raised high in the air.

F**k off you sh**ty son of a b***h…!” He growled out lowly.

While Bro joined the fight, John hovered uncertainly in the air. Slowly, he floated down to the ground, the voices of his friends trying to make it through his hazy mind once more. Visions of Dad on that checkerboarded place. Red, red, red, red--

John, breathe, gog d**n it. I’m here.

Davesprite is back…? John blinked and snapped his gaze up. The Heir found that he was on his knees, sitting on the edge of a cliff. Bro was hovering nearby, eyebrows furrowed with concern.

Jack--?” John rasped out for a second before swallowing--how long had he been sitting here?--his mouth dry. “Where’s...Jack…?”

The f**ker’s gone. He’ll probably come back later on--

Davesprite continued to speak but John can’t hear him again. Jack Noir...gone? But that would mean--

Dad.

Rose’s mom.

The checkered battlefield.

John scrambled to his feet, alarming Davesprite and Bro. The Heir staggered forward, green sparks traveling up and down his body as he floated over the empty space of the cliff edge.

He had to--he had to go now. He had to protect those two--!

The Heir reached out, his clothes darkening to black. The Breath symbol switching to Space. He can see the place he needed to go to. He had to go to Skaia. He had to go now.

His left arm feels like it’s breaking--like it’s being ripped to shreds--but he doesn’t care. He needs to go, go, go, go, protect them--HE CAN’T FAIL--!

JOHN!

...

He felt warm.

...

John...don’t--...! Don’t go--f**k! Please, don’t go…!

He felt a warmth at his back, pressing against him gently as...arms wrapped around his waist, keeping him still. Keeping him from warping.

“I have to go,” And wow, was that cracking voice his? John was slowly coming back to where he was and he shook off the glowing, orange arms around his waist. “I have to go and save them, protect them--!”

A taloned hand grasped onto John’s right wrist tightly.

No, you’re not--!

Please, let me go, Dave!” John whipped his head around to gaze into orange-tinted shades. “Let me go, now! If you don’t, Jack will--!”

I know, John. I know.” Davesprite stressed out, holding onto the other’s wrist almost pleadingly. “It’s a difficult choice. But you can’t--

“F**k difficult choices, Dave! I need to go now!”

“Kid!” Bro stepped in, voice sharp. He continued to hover over the ground, strings of Heart ready to restrain the Heir. “Calm the f**k down right now! You’re in no condition to--”

“I don’t care!” John panted back, a green spark snapping across his cheek. “If I don’t go right f**king now, Dad and Rose’s mom are going to--”

You can’t go!” Davesprite barked back, eyebrows lowering beneath his shades, glaring daggers at John. “If you go now, you’ll--

John had enough.

“I DON’T WANT TO THEM TO DIE!” John finally roared out, the Breath swirling violently around him, blue eyes glowing in the dim lighting. Loose rubble scattered away from the trio. “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LET ME GO!?”

John prepared to leave again but Davesprite just wouldn’t let go--!

BECAUSE I DON’T WANT YOU TO F**KING DIE EITHER, JOHN!” Davesprite shouted back with equal ferocity, wings spreading out, feathers fluttering into the wind.

...

...

...The Breath suddenly fell to a silent hush.

Small rocks fell back onto the surface of LOWAS. Bro silently watched the ongoings of the confrontation with furrowed eyebrows. F**k, he didn’t know why a bird-version of his little bro was here, but he held his tongue. Far more important things were happening.

The two, the Heir and the sprite, stared at each other for a long moment, panting for a while. After a moment of silence, Davesprite looked away first, taking in a shuddering breath.

I just…....I can’t...let you do this to yourself, John. Not again.” His wings folded in slightly. “...I can’t...lose you like that again.

No response came from John and the sprite slowly lifted his head. John’s expression looked anguished when Davesprite looked back at him. The Heir’s mind swirled nauseously.

Look at what you did. A voice that wasn’t his friends’ hissed venomously. He came back for your sorry a**, and you’re just throwing his help back into his face like an a**hole.

You don’t deserve his help.

You don’t deserve anyone’s help.

Green sparks flowed along John’s body once more and Davesprite stiffened in surprise and exasperation.

John, f**king God d**n it, don’t warp…!” Davesprite continued to hold onto the Heir’s right wrist tightly. His gaze narrowed at the sight of blood dribbling down the teen’s left arm. “Sh**, stop moving already!

{That’s right, John, listen to other-me!} Phantom-Dave popped into sight, drifting in front of John’s face, jaw clenched tightly.  Time flowed off of him in a heavy red aura. {F**king listen...!}

“But Dad and Rose’s mom--!” John protested desperately to both Daves.

He couldn’t see them like…...that again. Dad...Rose’s mom…!

“We’ll just bring them back like you did for me, kid.” Bro cut in, gaze stern. “If I was able to come back then those two should be able to. Plus, if you go after Jack like this, how the he** are going to last? All of you would end up dying--and we both know that’s the f**king truth.”

John’s will wavered. Davesprite saw how torn he was and he softened his gaze. The sprite made his grip more gentle but still firm, grounding.

John, buddy…...everything will work out this time. I f**king promise.

John slowly turned his head to look at Davesprite, eyes shining with unshed tears. He opened and closed his mouth for a moment, unsure of what to say before finally settling on something.

“You...y-you can’t promise something like that D-Dave…! And I don’t mean that you’re w-weak or something...but you don’t have to do something like that…” John let out a shaky laugh, moving his iGlasses up, using the palm of his right hand to rub at his eyes. “I-It’s just...weird, I guess...c-cause I always had to lead...b-before I came back from...there. S-Sure all of you guys supported me...b-but I guess...I felt that it was always my job to...be positive. Lead everyone. D-Do things...on my own...”

{Oh...John…} Ghost-Jade murmured with a wavering voice.

John trailed off, gaze distant now. Davesprite furrowed his eyebrows before moving a taloned hand up to pat the ravenet’s head.

John…” When blue eyes connect with red-orange ones, Davesprite continued. “This time...this time for f**king sure...you won’t be alone. Isn’t that right, Bro?

The elder Strider scoffed before looking at John over his pointed shades, showing his seriousness.

“Of f**king course.”

Silence reigned over the area as John stared at Davesprite...and then Bro...and then Davesprite again. The Heir’s labored breathing was the thing that was most audible in the silence.

...Finally, John’s stunned expression melted into one of relief and slight fondness. He let out a weak laugh.

“Heh...you Striders...are always so stubborn…” John weakly chuckled, gaze tired and hazy. “Al..right….you guys….win…”

John laughed again, feeling a bit lighter now; his clothes lightened up to a familiar, sky-blue hue, the symbol of Breath returning to his chest. Shoulders slumping, the Heir lowered himself onto the ground--before his knees suddenly buckled. John fell forward and Davesprite caught the ravenet in surprise.

John…!?

{Jegus f**king Christ, dude.} Dave hovered next to John carefully, eyebrows raised.

{John…} Rose also appeared, looking the other over carefully. {...You lost a lot of blood. But I’m sure you’ll be fine after a quick patch up…}

John wheezed out a breathless laugh as Davesprite gently moved an orange arm underneath John’s drooping shoulders.

“Oh...heh...looks like...ugh...I lost...t-too much...bl-blood…getting...dizzy...” John’s eyes tried to stay on Davesprite or Bro, but his blue irises keep on rolling everywhere, barely paying attention to either individual. “Dave...y-you still gotta...t-tell me...what happened….f-for you to...come b-back here…”

Of course, John, of course. Just--” Davesprite’s voice got a little shaky as he cradled John’s head with his left hand. “--Just stay awake for me. Just a li’l longer, a’ight? We gonna get ya’ back to your house n’ patch you up there.

John grinned wobbly up at Davesprite, shakily patting the taloned hand gripping his shoulder that was holding him up in sprite’s grasp.

“Hehe...your...T-Texan is...showing…”

“And you wanted to go after Jack,” Bro muttered under his breath. The adult flew up, taking a survey of their surroundings before calling down to Davesprite. “C’mon, Dave. I think I know where to go.”

Davesprite nodded mutely in return, tail curling underneath himself before he flew up with a flap of his wings, one right arm still under John’s shoulders and the other under the shorter’s knees.

Just a li’l longer, John.” Davesprite murmured. “It’s alright now.

John blinked sluggishly. A smile making its way onto his lips. But then it disappeared. He let out a shaky breath, gazing past Davesprite’s head to the dusky sky above, watching the fireflies drift lazily through the clouds.

“......Thanks...Dave. I...never got to tell you that...th-the first time...yo-you came back…” John blinked a few tears away at this.

Davesprite’s wings fluff up with uncomfortableness--he didn’t like seeing tears in his best bro’s eyes. With a soft sigh, Davesprite manages a small smile at John as he continued to fly after Bro.

No thanks necessary, man…...but you’re welcome.

John smiled weakly at this. He shut his eyes, exhausted, but he didn’t fall asleep--he would do it for Davesprite. The trio--with ghosts floating beside John--made their way to a gate. As they went through, John felt warmer than he had in awhile.

He wasn’t going to be alone anymore.

==> Reader: Be Jade before she entered the game.

Chapter Text

==> Reader: Be Jade before she entered the game.

You are now Jade and wHY ARE YOU RUNNING!?

Well, just recently, Bec warped back and he insisted on giving you some sort of weird bracelet to wear….well, at least it was green. Anyways, right when he came back, meteors began to rain down of the place. A massive one would be hitting your island really soon! As you’re running through your house, you attempt to make small talk with your dog.

“Bec, where did you go!?”

A gruff snort answers you and you frown.

“‘Somewhere’ isn’t a good answer, Mister Becquerel Harley!”

Bec seems to send you an amused look, barking softly. Hmph! So Bec wasn’t going to tell you yet? Fine.

Throughout the time that had passed, you have been helping Dave get into SBURB while also building his house. You have also been sleeping, trying to investigate Prospit for anymore differences. So far, nothing new had happened…

Oh! You’re finally at the stairs now! With big leaps, you scale two steps at a time. While running up the stairs, you notice that your ceiling shook for a moment, dust falling down. You furrow your eyebrows with slight worry.

Were the meteors getting that intense already? You jump up the last few steps and pant slightly when you turn a corner. Standing at the doorway of the indoor garden, your eyes quickly scan the room with mild surprise.

The Cruxtruder, Totem Lathe, Alchemiter and so on were already ready for you. Once you stepped further into the room, the cover on the Cruxtruder popped off and the countdown started. John must’ve set everything up for you. Thank goodness you loaded your SBURB copy before you went to sleep!

With a grim smile, you quickly rushed forward to grab a green dowel of cruxite. You immediately run over to the Totem Lathe on the side, tapping your foot nervously with impatience as you got it carved. While you were waiting for it to be finally carved, you turn your head in time to catch a bright flash of green light.

Squinting your eyes, you wait until the light dies out. You blink your eyes rapidly before widening them in surprise.

“Bec…?”

Your dog glows a bright green, his back legs are now replaced by a snake-like tail. Your dog had merged with your Kernelsprite, completing the first prototype.

Before you can think any further into it, you turn your attention back to your carved cruxite. You grab it and quickly rush over to the Alchemiter, setting the cruxite down on the small pedestal beside the massive machine.

A completely green tree is immediately alchemized and you--

Woah! Everything’s dark all of a sudden!? You frown and move a hand up to your face. Your fingers dip under your round glasses--wow, they’re still on--and you find a smooth surface over your eyes. It...doesn’t feel like cloth...it’s almost like touching water. Whatever it is, you’re not able to take the darn thing off.

With a huff you stretch your other senses out. Perhaps this was part of how you were going to enter the game? You saw a tree...you’re wearing a blindfold…

Perhaps this is like a pinata game? You furrow your eyebrows and sigh exasperatedly. Seriously, the game had such a strange way of messing with you!

You reach into your Strife Deck and pull out your shotgun, making sure the safety was on before grabbing your weapon by its nozzle. Turning towards the direction of the cruxite tree that had sprouted in your garden, you raise the end of your shotgun up and wave it around cautiously, trying to see if you could bump anything with it.

Stepping forward slightly, the end of your shotgun gently thumps against something. Reaching your hand out, your hand pats something--is this the trunk of the tree? You can feel the rough texture of bark.

With a huff, you lift your gaze around--it’s not like you can see, but maybe you can pinpoint where the ‘pinata’ is from where you’re standing. Hefting your shotgun again, you swing around hastily. You only had less than seven minutes by now!

Suddenly, the floor beneath you jerks. You yelp in surprise as you fall to the ground. To your shock, you also start sliding along the floor like it had suddenly became slanted. Hands scrabbling around randomly, your fingers can’t catch anything before you--

The wind rushes past your face and you’RE SUDDENLY FALLING!

You gasp softly as your hair whips across your face. You still can’t see anything, but you know for sure that you're falling--no, no, no, no! There isn’t that many floors to your home and--

You grit your teeth and snap to attention. NOW WASN’T THE TIME TO PANIC!

Your hands move the shotgun in your grasp to the proper position. One hand holding on the neck of your shotgun, your hand finds the end and your fingers wrap around it. Your finger brushes the trigger and you inhale sharply. Here you go…!

“BEC! C’MERE, BOY!”

You hear a zap. You smile, but you feel like it comes out more like a grimace. With a soft, calming breath, you aim your shotgun forward, feeling the wind beat against your back as you continue to fall.

“I’m counting on you, Bec.”

Bang!

Your body jerks with the recoil of your gun. You heart beats loudly in your ears as you continue to fall. Here we go, here we go, here we go--!

Suddenly, you could see again.

Blinking and squinting your eyes at the sudden change in lighting, you quickly try and take in your surroundings--

Oof!

Your vision gets filled with white and wOW IT’S FREEZING! Flailing around for a moment, you shot up from the white stuff--...oh! It’s snow! With an excited grin crawling along your face, you dust your arms off with a huff.

Carefully crawling out of the puff of snow that you had thankfully landed on, you slowly stand up and look around for your shotgun; the fall had shocked you in letting go of your choice of weapon.

Squinting your eyes and adjusting your glasses, you brush through the piles of disturbed snow, finally, your hand makes contact with something and you carefully start digging the object out. You haven’t put the safety back on to your shotgun, so you’ll have to be extra cautious.

Just a little more...and...aha! There she is, your beautiful shotgun! You dust off some more snow, checking to see if your weapon is banged up from the fall.

...Hmmm...nope! She looks fine. With a hum, you hold your shotgun properly and trudge through the snow, looking around carefully. You must’ve gotten into the game since your place wasn’t raining meteors anymore…

You take a deep breath and let it out, watching your exhale come out in a small puff of white air. You glance around again, mildly surprised to see how fast snow had coated your usually green island. You grunt as you lift your legs out of the snow when you start to sink.

You look past the land to look at the water...or the ice that surrounds your home. You puff out another, small cloud of air as you squint at the solid block of ice surrounding your island.

...There’s something within the ice out there. You can’t see it really from here, but you know that there’s a bunch of small things--or creatures?--within the ice. You hum thoughtfully before shaking your head. You’ll check it out later.

A green glow catches your eyes and you slowly lift your gaze up to see Bec in his new sprite form. You walk through the snow, keeping your gaze on your dog as you got closer to the floating sprite.

“Bec…? Are you still with me, boy?”

Bec opens his jaws and he barks, but the sound is much louder than usual--a thousand times more louder--as green sparks roll off of his body. You wince in surprise and hunch your shoulders, lifting one hand from your shotgun to cover one ear.

Bec noticed your distress and immediately shut his mouth, whining low in his throat. You merely lower your hand once the barking stops, smiling tentatively at the dog. Perhaps merging with the Kernelsprite had messed up Bec’s control on his own power--he’ll have to readjust in controlling his God-like powers again.

“It’s okay, Bec. I was just a little startled. Anyways, do you think you can help warp me back to the garden room? I wanna check it real quick.”

Bec nods and glows a bright green. In a flash of light, you blink rapidly and find yourself in the garden room--or what’s left of it. You frown slightly in sadness when you see that less than half of the room is destroyed; the floor on the opposite side of where you’re standing is caved in slightly, cold wind billowing into the garden because of the missing chunk of wall.

However, it relieves you to see that the SBURB devices are all still intact. You walk forward quickly, checking to see if there’s anything else wr--

Woah! Your weight is suddenly no longer supported by the ground and you’re falling agai--

Bec warps you to a safe and stable part of floor, your butt hitting the floor with a soft thump. He snorts admonishingly at you, holding back his reprimanding barks. You smile sheepishly at your dog, one hand propping your body up while you run a hand through your raven hair.

“Sorry, Bec. I should’ve been more careful.”

Bec huffs again, continuing to float above you as you carefully got to your feet. You dust your skirt off, peering down the hole you would've fallen through before looking at your garden. You sigh sadly. You would have to replant everything after fixing the wall and floor.

With a small shake of your head, you turn around and head towards your room. Exiting the gardening room, Bec floats after you. Your room was only a small flight of stairs away, so you didn’t need Bec to warp you th--

Bzap!

You blink as you find yourself sitting on your bed, watching as green light fades from view. With a pout, you look over at Bec, who drifts with an amused look in his eyes.

“I could’ve walked, Bec!” You say as you continue to pout. “While I do appreciate it, I don’t have to have you do everything…”

Bec merely snuffles softly, floating down to float and inch away from your face before licking the air between you. You understand that he can’t touch you because he hadn’t been prototyped a second time yet, but you can tell that the lick that would’ve touched your face meant one thing.

It’s because I love you.

Your pout slowly turns into a fond smile. You wish you could hug Bec, but you don’t want to become a sprite. With a sigh, you air-pat him, hand hovering over his large head as you mime petting him.

“Thanks, boy.”

Bec huffs softly. You smile again before turning your gaze to--

Ping!

You blink in mild surprise. Someone was pestering you. You reach into your captchalogue deck and bring your laptop out. You open your laptop, waiting for it to turn on. Once your screen lights up, you open up the chat window and--

...Oh no.

Your eyebrows furrow and you bite your lip out of frustration. You sigh exasperatedly before accepting your fate.

-- carcinoGeneticist [ CG ] began trolling gardenGnostic [ GG ] at 6:02 --

CG: OK. BEFORE YOU CHEW ME OUT FOR BEING A SH**TY N**K-SUCKING B**GLE-LICKER, I WANT TO APOLOGIZE TO YOU, JADE, FOR MY PREVIOUS CONVERSATIONS WITH YOU.

CG: IT WASN’T RIGHT OF ME TO SAY THOSE THINGS ABOUT YOUR ENTIRE SPECIES. WELL, ACTUALLY, HUMANS ARE REALLY F**KED UP, BUT YOU AND YOUR PITY-FRIENDS ARE THE EXCEPTIONS.

CG: ANYWAYS, I WANT TO APOLOGIZE ONCE MORE FOR MY INCREDIBLE D**CHEBAG-NESS AND INSUFFERABLE PERSONALITY.

CG: MAYBE WE CAN...UH...START OVER?

…...

You blink...and then blink again. You didn’t expect this troll to be apologizing to you. He was always so mean to you! But he’s apologizing…

Bec huffs softly as he floats beside your bed. You wonder what made the troll say sorry to you. Was this a prank?

GG: you’re not lying...are you?

CG: NO.

CG: IF I DID, I WOULD BE SCOLDED.

GG: i didn’t think you would care about being scolded.

CG: WELL, NOT SCOLDED. MORE LIKE THROWN INTO THE ULTIMATE, DEEPEST PIT OF GUILT. HE’LL JUST STARE AT ME WITH HIS GOD D**N OCULAR-ORBS AND LOOK AT ME LIKE HE’S ON THE VERGE OF CRYING LIKE A F**KING GRUB!

CG: OR HE’D JUST GIVE ME THIS DISAPPOINTED LOOK THAT’LL MAKE ME FEEL LIKE SH** THAT SHOT OUT OF A BARKBEAST.

You blink...and blink again. Slowly, a smile crawls along your lips. This troll who usually shouts hateful things at you is suddenly...nicer. A giggle escapes your lips. While his words are still as vulgar as usual, you feel that this troll has lightened up on you significantly.

Whoever guilt-tripped this troll to be nice must be super-duper nice!

GG: i forgive you. just...understand that i don’t like being made fun of. and don’t bully my friends anymore, please--unless it’s a joke between friends or something... :/

CG: YEAH...

CG: JUST...SORRY FOR BEING SUCH A D**K.

CG: CAN WE...START OVER, JADE?

CG: UGH, WAIT. YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT ME TO SAY YOUR FIRST NAME.

GG: it’s fine! :)

GG: as long as you give me your name. :)

CG: IT’S KARKAT VANTAS.

GG: i’m jade harley! even though you already know that... :/

CG: GEH, IT’S FINE! WE’RE STARTING OVER WITH INTRODUCTIONS AFTER ALL.

CG: SO...UH...

CG: NICE TO MEET YOU...?

CG: F**K, I SOUND LIKE AN IDIOT!

You laugh brightly. This troll was so much more nicer now!

GG: it’s alright, vantas!

CG: JUST CALL ME KARKAT. I MEAN, WHEN YOU SAY VANTAS, IT REMINDS ME OF STRIDER.

GG: oh, you know dave? :D

CG: UUUUGGGHH...!

CG: I KNOW YOU SAID TO NOT INSULT YOUR FRIENDS, BUT THE ONLY THINGS THAT WOULD FLOW OUT OF MY MOUTH ABOUT STRIDER WOULD BE CONSIDERED “BULLYING YOUR FRIENDS”.

You smile softly.

GG: dave can be rude sometimes, but that’s just his cool-kid personality! :D

CG: ...WHATEVER...I GUESS...

CG: ANYWAYS, ALTHOUGH I DID TROLL YOU TO APOLOGIZE, THERE’S SOMETHING I NEED TO WARN YOU ABOUT.

CG: I DON’T MEAN TO BE SUPER RUDE OR ANYTHING BUT YOU GOTTA PICK UP THE PACE. YOU NEED TO FIND YOUR DENIZEN AND MEET UP WITH THE CREEPY B***H.

Your...Denizen?

GG: ...is something bad going to happen if i don’t hurry? :(

CG: ...NOT...EXACTLY. I AM MESSAGING YOU FROM THE FUTURE AFTER ALL.

GG: are my friends okay in your timeline?

Wait...what about John? He’s not feeling well lately, isn’t he?

GG: is john alright? :(

CG: YOUR FRIENDS ARE FINE. AND JOHN IS FINE! RIGHT NOW HE’S ON A MISSION WITH A SPRITE VERSION OF STRIDER. THIS IS WAY INTO THE FUTURE, SO I CAN’T TELL YOU EVERYTHING. ALL IN ALL, THE LITTLE SH** IS FINE!

You frown. With the way Dave had described John’s previous condition, you couldn’t help but be concerned. Was John feeling better now? Was he alright? Was he safe?

GG: he’s...john’s not sick, is he? why is he having nightmares?

CG: ...

CG: I...

CG: I. CAN’T. F**KING. TELL. YOU.

CG: I’M HONESTLY F**KING SORRY BECAUSE IF I TELL YOU NOW, SH** MIGHT HAPPEN AND THINGS MIGHT GET MESSED UP. YOU’LL HAVE TO FIND OUT BY YOURSELF, JADE!

CG: BUT MAKE IT F**KING FAST BECAUSE JOHN IS A SACRIFICIAL IDIOT! HE’S CURRENTLY HAVING A MOIRAIL MOMENT IN YOUR TIMELINE. SO, FOR NOW, I NEED YOU TO MEET YOUR DENIZEN AND ALL THAT SH**. YOU NEED TO TALK TO THE GOG D**N BEAST AND UNFREEZE THE FROGS.

You were honestly confused by the sudden overflow of information. You were worried for John, but you understand that you now have a role to take. With a sigh, you frown slightly.

GG: can you watch out for john for me while i do my part in the game? :/

CG: OF COURSE I WILL. HE...

CG: I OWE HIM A LOT. HE’S DONE A LOT FOR ME, MY MOIRAIL, MY OTHER PITY-FRIENDS. HE HELPED ME A LOT WITH MY PROBLEMS AND MY GOG D**N BIG MOUTH.

CG: I SPEW A LOT OF SH**, BUT JOHN...

CG: UGH, SH**. I’M GETTING ALL...WHAT’S YOUR HUMAN TERM FOR THIS? RIGHT, “SAPPY”.

CG: ANYWAYS, YOU GET WHAT I MEAN?

Was John the one you guilt-tripped Karkat? It certainly sounds that way. You smile slightly. If John was able to become friends with these trolls, then you can too!

GG: i get it! okay, i’ll go meet my denizen. and karkat?

CG: YEAH?

GG: thank you for being so nice now! i hope you stay safe too! :D

CG: WHATEVER, HARLEY! BYE!

-- carcinoGeneticist [ CG ] ceased trolling gardenGnostic [ GG ] at 6:23 --

You have a feeling that Karkat is blushing with embarrassment. You giggle softly in amusement. With a soft sigh, you shut your computer, a determined glint in your eyes.

You now have a job to do. Captchalogging your laptop, you hop out of bed and smile brightly at Bec.

“C’mon, Bec! Let’s get alchemizing! Then we’ll go see my Denizen.”

Bec huffs again and flashes a bright green, warping the two of you to the garden room. You scan the area and take careful steps this time towards the Cruxtruder.

The faster you get this done, the faster you’ll meet your Denizen. And after that, you’ll meet your friends. And then you’ll comfort John a whole bunch! Now, it’s time to work.

==> Jade: Be Rose.

You are now Rose.

==> Rose: Avoid the attack!

Right now, you are jumping over the head of a massive ogre that’s swiping at you with his big, meaty hands. You twist through the air and whip one of your wands forward, gaze narrowing sharply.

A bolt of lavender energy shoots out of your wand and stabs through the head of the ogre, effectively killing it, grist littering the ground. You land on the ground, kicking up a cloud of white sand. With a sharp breath, you spin around in time and send a sharp kick forward to knock a snarling imp backwards.

The imp soars through the air before bursting into grist when it hits the ground. You then dart your gaze around to see two basilisks slithering towards you on your right. Turning your body, you direct your wands in the direction of the charging beasts.

One bolt of energy slips out of one of your wands and successfully stabs through the head of a basilisk. However, the second bolt isn’t as successful--the other basilisk sharply dodges and continues to claw towards you.

Narrowing your gaze dart back again, sending a trail of lavender energy at the basilisk again. The basilisk dodges again before leaping at you, jaws open wide--

You roll forward, ducking under the lunge, uncaring that some sand clings to your hair for a moment. You hear the basilisk hit the ground behind you with a snarling hiss. You quickly get to your feet and send a bolt of lavender at the basilisk once more before he can regain his bearings.

The basilisk lets out a small shriek before it bursts into grist. You huff out a breath, quietly collecting the grist that had accumulated over the sand.

“W-Wowza! Th-That was certainly a fight to behold!”

You blink and whip your wands around to aim the tips at the speaker. There was a yelp and…

You blink again and purse your lips at the...small, pink turtle that was struggling to hide behind a nearby white rock.

“Argh, curse these short, stubby legs!” The turtle complained, continuing to try and crawl away before looking at Rose with wide, green eyes. “P-Please don’t hurt me, Ma’am!”

You slowly lower your wands, raising an eyebrow as you carefully approach the turtle.

“Apologies.” You murmur in a gentle way as you crouch down in front of the turtle--but not close enough to make the small reptile uncomfortable. “I thought you were another hostile.”

The turtle laughs nervously--he sounds like a child--and you can see how his--you think it’s a he--legs tremble slightly. You soften your gaze at this and put your wands back into your Strife Deck to look less threateningly.

“My name is Rose Lalonde.” You smile slightly at the turtle. “What might your name be?”

The pink turtle slowly turned his body to face you properly, eyes skittish before he seemed to swallow his fear, smiling nervously at you.

“A-Akupara, Ma’am! The n-name’s Akupara.”

“Greetings, Akupara.” You glance around for a moment before looking back at him. “...Where are your friends? Shouldn’t you be with them? It’s dangerous out here with all of the imps, ogres, and basilisks crawling around.”

Akupara scuffs one of his clawed feet forward, looking glum.

“I got separated from my friends, Ma’am. Mother and Father are probably expecting me to come home by now…”

Your eyes look at Akupara with understanding.

==> Rose: Help the small turtle get home.

“Well...now that the beasts are gone, perhaps I can help you home, Akupara.”

The pink turtle’s eyes light up with surprise and then joy. He let out a happy sound, beak-like mouth clicking together for a moment before he nods feverently.

“Y-Yes! That w-would be wonderful, Ma’am!  B-But, uh, if I'm not a bother...”

“Oh, just call me Rose, Akupara.  And you're not a bother at all.” You say with an amused smile.

“M-Ma’am Rose!”

Pffft--!” You stifle a laugh. “...I suppose that’s an improvement…”

You shake your head in amusement as you carefully approach and gather the small turtle in your arms--he was roughly the size of your own head, and he was quite light. His claws only dug lightly into your arms; it wasn’t painful--it was more like putting enough pressure to hold on.

You stand up slowly and look questioningly down at Akupara in your arms.

“Where to, little one?”

Akupara peaks his head out of his shell--he had hid slightly when you grabbed him--looking up at you with shy eyes. He moves one of his clawed forelegs forward.

“It’ll take a while...but my home should be ahead around the bend of this part of the island.”

You nod in understanding before taking a step forward. Your eyes gazes ahead, alert, but you direct your next question to Akupara.

“...Tell me, what’s your favorite color?” You can sense the tiny turtle’s surprise and you merely smile as you keep your gaze ahead of you. “I am curious, little one.”

Akupara clicks out a nervous sound before he begins to speak. You listen as you continue to walk.

~~

“Aku! We were so worried about you!”

You watch softly as you see Akupara rejoin with his mom and dad. An entire village of turtles slowly come out of their domes of white sand, looking at you with curious gazes.

==> Rose: Head back to your house.

You smile, stepping back slightly. You don’t wish to intrude any longer. Turning around, you are about to leave before Akupara calls out to you.

“W-Wait, Ma’am Rose! Don’t you w-want anything in r-return?”

You continue to walk forward, a small smile on your lips.

“No, I’m quite fine. I must head back to my own home and prepare a few things.” You pause and look over your shoulder, looking at Akupara with gentle eyes and a warm smile. “My friends are waiting for me.”

“Is your mother also waiting for you?”

You blink in surprise at that, turning your body around to look at the father of Akupara.

“...I’m sorry?” You tilt your head curiously at the larger, pink turtle. “What do you mean….erm….?"

“Chukwa, Young Mistress.” He bows his head slightly in your direction. “My name is Chukwa, Head of this Clan.”

“Ah, Mr. Chukwa.” You correct yourself before repeating your question. “What do you mean?”

He hums thoughtfully for a moment before speaking.

“Well...there was an older woman that looked very much like you, earlier. After saving me from a beastly ogre, I offered to give her something in return. In the end, I gave her the remaining boat that wasn’t destroyed in the chaos that those beasts had caused...” His wise, green eyes focus back to you. “...Are you going to meet up with her later on?”

You purse your lips thoughtfully. This entire time, you have been wondering where you mother had gone. You had checked your entire home, yet there was not a hint of drunken mother in sight.

So she left the island? But what for? Did she know that there was something out there? You furrow your eyebrows for a moment before looking over at Chukwa with kind eyes.

“...I will eventually meet her. However, for now, I must return home.”

“A-Ah, wait, Ma’am Rose!”

You blink and lower your gaze to see Akupara roll and object towards you...oh? It’s a turtle shell that’s only just slightly smaller than the turtle-child’s current one. Akupara shyly scuffs a clawed foreleg in the sand, looking up at you with bright, green eyes.

“...U-Uh, Ma’am Rose...this is one of my previous shells…! Th-They’re really hard to crack--j-just shy of being as tough as diamonds, honest! I w-want you to have it…” His green eyes lower to the sand below, slowly losing confidence again. “...M-Maybe...you kind find s-some sort of use for it…”

You raise your eyebrows in surprise before smiling softly, crouching down to gently pat Akupara’s head, feeling the scaley texture of the turtle’s head.

“Thank you, Akupara. I’m sure it will come in handy for me in the future.”

You captchalog the empty shell, watching as Akupara’s face brightens up. He smiles at you before scuttling away to his family. You stand up carefully, waving at the clan of turtles before turning around, walking back towards your house.

~~

With a sigh, you dust the front of your new, long, rose-pink skirt off. Your eyes scan the roof you are on carefully. There are no hostiles in your area so you carefully take a seat on the rooftop of your home.

After checking your entire house out once more, you are taking a well deserved rest. You sigh softly before bringing your gaze to the edge of the rooftop, eyes watching the waves wash up on the shore of your island...

Ping!

You blink in slight surprise before reaching into your captchalogue deck. You pull out your hubtopband and turn in on, a green screen activating and covering your right eye. Perhaps it was your friends pestering you?

...

Raising an eyebrow, you are surprised to see who is pestering you--or rather, trolling you. You purse your black lips thoughtfully before enlarging the chat window more.

-- grimAuxiliatrix [ GA ] began trolling tentacleTherapist [ TT ] at 6:34 --

GA: Greetings, Love. <3

You...you blink in confusion and slight surprise. Your gaze rereads the words for a moment before responding. Perhaps this was a mistake…?

TT: I’m...sorry?

GA: Oh. Did I Say Something Wrong, Rose?

They know your name.

TT: ...

GA: Ah. Now I See What’s Wrong.

GA: Apologies, Rose. This Must Be Our First Conversation. I’m Sorry For Confusing You.

You blink and stare at your screen again. GA had called you...’Love’?

GA: I Have Gone Too Far Back In Time It Seems.

TT: You called me...”Love”?

GA: Oh. I Apologize If I’m Making You Uncomfortable.

TT: Well...I am more curious than disturbed at the moment.

TT: You say that you’ve gone too far back. I’m going to guess that we shall meet each other in the future?

TT: Are we...lovers?

You have never really seen yourself in a relationship before. But this person trolling you from the future is…

GA: “Lovers”?

GA: Oh, Right. Apologies, I Had Forgotten Your Earth Term For Matesprits.

TT: “Matesprits”?

GA: The Word “Matesprits” Is Similar To Your Term “Lovers”.

You blink once again in surprise as you gaze at the soft-green words on your screen. This troll was much more kinder than you had imagined them to be. Jade, John, and Dave would always say that they were like bullies.

However...this troll is from the future. Perhaps GA will be somewhat like a bully at first before becoming...your lover?

TT: I see...

TT: Thank you for giving me some insight.

TT: Also, it has come to my attention that you are not being rude like my friends have mentioned to me before. Why is that?

GA: That Would Be Because Of One Of Your Friends, Actually.

TT: One of my friends?

GA: Apologies, Love. I Can’t Give Away Their Identity At This Time.

GA: But You Can Call Them...The Heir.

You raise a curious eyebrow. You have not checked up on your friends in a while. Perhaps one of them goes by this nickname now? You do recall a bright blue light that glowed in the sky above your planet. Maybe one of them had achieved their God Tier form.

TT: The Heir...

TT: Will they contact me?

GA: Haha. Oh, They Have Contacted You Many Times Already. The Heir Is Your Friend After All.

TT: That would make sense.

TT: Hmm...so I must find out on my own?

GA: The Mystery Will Be Quite Simple For You, Love. I’m Sure You Already Suspect Who The Heir Is.

GA: ...But Please Do Not Question Them Harshly. The Heir Has Been Through So Much Heartache.

GA: Oh Dear. I Feel The Urge To Pap The Poor Heir. <>

You lift squint your eyes at the screen in confusion. ‘Pap’? But your eyebrows furrow at the fact that one of your friends had been through much heartache. Your mind immediately clicks who it is.

John.

...

You bit your lower lip and sigh softly. You will talk to John later. But for now, you shall pretend to be oblivious.

GA: I’m Getting Off Track.

GA: But Do Take Care Of The Heir When You Find Out Who They Are.

TT: I already have a good feeling who it is.

TT: And that troubles me deeply.

GA: Please Don’t Be Troubled, Rose. The Heir Is Being Supported. They Will Get Better.

TT: I truly hope so.

You’re about to end the conversation before a thought comes to you.

TT: Wait...is there another reason why you decided to troll me? Well, not this me, but the future me? Or is that too confidential?

GA: Well...

GA takes a while to think. They--but you feel it might be a girl--seem to ponder about what she should say. Finally, she responds.

Ping!

GA: I Will Be Honest With You.

GA: I Just Wanted To Check Up On You And See If You Were Well.

GA: I Had Also Wanted To Say That I Am Flushed For You.

GA: Or, In Your Human Terms, I Love You.

GA: <3

GA: I Apologise Once Again For Being So Sudden. I Hope This Won’t Ruin Our Conversations In The Future.

You blink and can’t help the flush in your cheeks. You do not know this troll...but you have a feeling that you will become the best of companions. Your stomach is fluttering.

What a strange feeling…

TT: I am flattered. Sadly, I do not yet have the same feelings...

TT: But perhaps...I shall come to like you...and then possibly...love you?

TT: The future is unknown, but I am excited to see how I shall come to know you.

TT: That reminds me...can I have a name?

GA: It Is Kanaya Maryam. I Look Forward To Future Conversations, Dear Rose.

GA: Now, I Must Find The Correct Timeline To Have My Conversation With You.

GA: Good Luck. <3

TT: Thank you.

-- grimAuxiliatrix [ GA ] ceased trolling tentacleTherapist [ TT ] at 7:03 --

That was...one of the most strangest conversations you have ever had so far. With a shake of your head, you sigh softly. You open another window on your hubtopband to check up on John.

The screen takes a while to load. Finally, you get a clear picture of Joh--

Oh? He has company--wait. Is that...Bro? Wearing magenta? You furrow your eyebrows as you zoom in on the ravenet’s room. And is that...Dave? With wings and a tail? He’s orange too. But shouldn’t he be on his own planet after entering the game?

You really want to pester John now, but you can see that the trio are having a deep conversation. You mute your hubtopband before you hear anything to keep their talk private. With a sigh, you conclude that you’ll definitely talk to John--but you’ll obviously do it later.

You take one last look at the scene on your screen--John looks troubled and Bro’s shoulders are raised with tension--before you turn off your hubtopband. As much as you want to know what’s going on...John deserves his privacy.

You need to get to LOHAC and initiate the Scratch. Later on, you’ll ask John if he could help you with getting the Tumor from Skaia. Now, you shall get the materials needed for the Scratch.

“Jaspers.” You murmur quietly.

Your voice was soft, but he still apparently heard you. Poking his head up from the edge of the roof, he floats up and purrs softly, tentacles weaving through the air for a moment as he drifts closer to where you’re sitting.

Yes, Rose?

“You’re allowed to go anywhere you want to, okay?” You lift your gaze from your closed laptop and smile softly at him. “You’re free to go.”

Jaspers, the glowing sprite, tilts his head questioningly at you.

...What do you mean?

“You can go wherever you want, Jaspers. You no longer have to look out for me.” You stand up and store your hubtopband away in your captchalogue deck. “I will be fine, Jaspers. And I thank you for taking care of me throughout this entire time.”

Jaspers purrs softly for a moment, his eyes blinking curiously at you before he seemed to understand. Slowly, he nods. He purrs and snuggles up with you before he drifts up into the sky.

Be careful, Rose!

In a blink of light...he’s gone.

You stand thoughtfully at the edge of your rooftop. You can’t tell where Jaspers had gone, but you feel that he will be fine. Stepping back, you turn around and head towards the entrance of your roof.

You will do your best to get everything done faster. After all, you still want to get to John quickly and check up on him. A much needed therapist appointment with the ravenet will do him some good.

With a sigh, you lift your eyes to the bright sky above, squinting slightly. You’ll need to find one of those platform portals to get to LOHAC.

Who knows? Maybe you might run into Mom along the way...

==> Rose: Be the Reader.

==> Reader: See how John and his current companions are doing.

Bro stood by the window in John’s room, eyes sharp and calculating as he watched for any movement outside. Occasionally, sparks of magenta light would dance along his fingers. Bro was simply getting used to the feeling, letting the energy of Heart flow through his body and settle.

On the other side of the room, John was getting patched up. The ravenet winced slightly at a slightly harsh tug on his left arm; the bandages were wrapped snuggly around the limb to help stop the bleeding. Davesprite noticed the Heir’s pain and frowned slightly, wings fluffing up in agitation.

Sorry.” He murmured.

John merely grinned back wearily, head rolling on his pillow as he looked up into Davesprite’s shades with reassuring eyes.

“It’s no problem at all, Dave. Thanks for patching me up.”

And then, the sound of blubbering came from John’s right. Multiple spit bubbles popped while a certain salamander patriarch clung to the ravenet’s uninjured arm.

“Oh, John, young lad, I shouldn’t have ran away! Perhaps I could’ve provided a distraction, o-or I--!”

“Bal, Bal, buddy, it’s alright!” John protested gently, turning his head to look into teary amber eyes sternly. “You listened to what I asked you to do, and for that, I’m really grateful. I would’ve been devastated if you got hurt, Bal.”

After Bal had ran away at the beginning of John’s fight with Jack, the salamander had decided to go to John’s house to wait. He had a good feeling the Heir would go back to his home before continuing his journey. Still, Bal was practically swimming in guilt until John came back, Davesprite carrying the ravenet in his arms.

Balthazar had broke down seeing John’s near-limp form in Davesprite’s grasp; he thought the Heir was dead. John hadn’t gone unconscious like Davesprite had asked him to, so he instantly opened his eyes to the sound of the harsh sobbing.

Calming the salamander down was a bit of a challenge, but the patriarch was immediately relieved to see that John was still alive. John tiredly directed the group to his room and Bal helped lead them to it.

Which now brings the entire group back to the present. John, finally patched up, sat up carefully with Davesprite’s assistance. The sprite helped prop a pillow behind the ravenet’s upper torso so the Heir could comfortably lean against the wall behind him.

{Gog d**n, John.} Dave floated beside John, arms crossed. Ghost-Rose and Ghost-Jade had returned to the mental realm of John’s mind. {You gotta learn to not force yourself. I wonder if Jade could probably hold you back from using Space.}

‘Can’t exactly help it, Dave. If I’m able to do something, then I’ll do it. I won’t sit back on my a** and watch bad things happen, y’know?'

Dave scoffed, shaking his head.

{You’re such a stubborn a**, Egder--}

When are either of you going to explain to me that there are two Daves?” Bro suddenly spoke up, causing the sprite and the Heir to look at the Theif.

The older Strider slowly turned his gaze from the window, golden-orange eyes gazing at John over his shades. John blinked in surprise before he sighed softly, blue eyes calmly gazing back.

“Well...Davesprite here traveled from the future. The other Dave should still be on LOHAC--”

“No, I mean there’s...Davesprite......and the Dave that’s floating in red pajamas to the right of you.”

John freezed and his mouth clicked shut in surprise. He swallowed and blinked his blue eyes, widening his gaze as he stared at Bro.

“...P-Pardon?”

He couldn’t have heard that right...right?

{Oh...f**k} Ghost-Dave murmured, uncrossing his arms as he stared at Bro with raised eyebrows. {Holy sh** balls…}

Bro furrowed his eyebrows and looked at Phantom-Dave--he actually looked at the Knight. The older Strider turned fully to gaze at John and the two Daves in the room.

“You guys are acting like there isn’t another Dave in the room. What the f**k is up with that?”

John’s heart pounded in his ears. Blue eyes flickered between Bro and Ghost-Dave, baffled by how the older Strider could see the other. Bro could see Dave. Bro could see Ghost-Dave.

“That’s…” John tried to come up with something...but the only thing that came up was the truth. The Heir’s eyes grew distant for a moment before he lowered his gaze to the ground. “...a little hard to explain…”

Bro narrowed his gaze and took a step forward away from the window, body slowly tensing up as if he were preparing for battle.

“What do you mea--?”

{Bro, I’m...dead.} The Knight cut in, his voice almost becoming a mumble. {You shouldn’t be able to see me…}

Phantom-Dave floated forward, head tilting. Bro actually placed a foot behind himself, eyebrows furrowed with apprehension as he scanned the Knight’s form. Dave hummed softly, studying the Thief.

{...But maybe because you’re a God of Heart?} Dave sighed and shrugged, shaking his head. {I guess that could make sense...}

“What the f**k do you mean you’re f**king dead?” Bro’s jaw tensed as he stared long and hard at Dave.

Davesprite’s wings fluffed up for a moment before settling, watching the one-sided--well, it was one-sided to him--conversation with sharp eyes. Ghost-Dave scratched the back of his head in return and sighed again, voice gruffly. The blonde slowly pushed his shades up onto his head, red eyes calmly gazing back at Bro as he floated a bit closer to the older Strider.

{...Bro...can’t you tell that I look older than the Dave you know?} The Knight gestured to himself. {I even look older than orange-me right here. Just--} Dave paused. He took in a deep breath...before exhaling slowly. {...You can’t tell anyone else about this--not yet, okay?}

Davesprite watched with confusion, but Bro tensed even further when he saw Ghost-Rose and Ghost-Jade pop out into the open.

“What the f**k…?”

John swallowed as Bro looked at all three ghosts before landing his gaze on the Heir. The Thief's eyebrows lowered beneath his shades. John was about to say something, but a magenta glow started to surround Bro. The Heir tensed up and froze under Bro’s unreadable gaze.

A tense silence fell over the group. Davesprite darted his gaze in between the Heir and the Thief; the sprite slightly shifted closer to John in a protective way. Bro’s shoulders were raised apprehensively, gaze literally staring into John’s soul.

Bro hasn’t been a Thief of Heart for long, but he can make his own conclusions about how a 13 year-old soul should look like...

“...Your...soul is...older than your God d**n body.” Bro finally spoke, voice slightly strained; the magenta light surrounding him died out. “What the he**...?”

{Time travel shenanigans, Bro. It’s time travel shenanigans.} Dave muttered. {You better take a seat because we’re gonna have a looong talk about the sh** that happened in the future.}

Bro blinked, staring at Dave for a long moment before sighing. The blonde glanced around quickly before grabbing John's nearby computer chair. The older Strider rolled the chair forward before taking a seat right next to the group.

“Alright. I’ll keep silent until you brats are done--but you’ll give me every single f**king detail about the future, am I clear?”

John looked the blonde in his pointed shades, voice wavering slightly but gaze strong.

“Of course.”

Davesprite glanced at John’s right, where Ghost-Dave should be, but all the sprite could see was air; nothing was there.

...So there’s...a ghost-me in the room?” John looked over at Davesprite and smiled tentatively before nodding. The sprite hummed in response. “Neat.

John chuckled wearily at that, fingers tapping his bandaged, left arm--Davesprite put a stop to this motion with a small frown on his lips, right wing batting the ravenet’s arm away; the wing settled gently and comfortingly over the Heir’s shoulders after that. The ravenet smiled weakly in return.

“Only you would say such things, Dave--both of you guys, I mean.”

{Dude, it’s the magnificent golden Strider blood that runs through our veins.} Dave managed a small smirk at John. {You can take the ‘Dave’ out of ‘Strider’, but you can never take the ‘Strider’ out of ‘Dave’.}

John rolled his eyes, and Davesprite caught the motion. The sprite smirked slightly.

...I have a pretty good feeling what my other-self said, so I won’t say it.

John huffed before looking back at Bro. The Heir leaned back on the wall behind him, feeling much more older than what he truly is. John flitted his gaze across the older Strider’s face before speaking.

“...It all started seven years ago...on my 13th birthday.”

Chapter Text

“On the day of my birthday, we started the game called SBURB.” John paused for a moment, thoughts collecting before he continued. “Things went out pretty much the same way things had gone up till now...except…” John gazed at Bro, awkwardly gesturing at the older Strider. “Y-You...didn’t exactly come back alive...and...I never pestered you or anything--I had no idea what kind of person you were...and stuff...”

Bro’s only reaction was the the white-knuckled grip his left hand had on the armrest of the computer chair. His right elbow was propped up on the other armrest, chin resting on the back of his hand. But he didn’t speak.

John bit his lower lip, swallowing for a moment before continuing.

“...Dave, as a sprite, actually came earlier from the future to save me from doing something really f**king stupid.” The Heir’s expression darkened for a moment, teeth gritting before he shook his head, forcing himself to relax as he looked at Bro. “After that...he...tried to help you fight Jack. In the timeline I’m from, only you and Dave fought against Jack. In the end…...you died and...Dave lost a wing.

John blinked and shifted a hand to touch the wing that was draped around his shoulders. His gaze softened in relief before he continued, turning his gaze back to Bro.

“After that...Jack...k-killed Dad and Rose’s mom. I was busy...getting the Tumor--it was a bomb for the Green Sun--out of Skaia, so I wasn’t--still, I should’ve--”

The Breath swirled around the Heir for a moment. His blue eyes glowed--Davesprite gently rested a hand over John’s clenched, left one. Red-orange eyes gazed softly into those unearthly irises behind the shades.

John...dude. Relax your fist.

John blinked when he then felt something warm and wet seap into the bandages around his hand. The Heir let out a rush of air as he unclenched his hand. He glanced down and grimaced when he saw blood starting to stain the white of the bandages.

{John, we’re going to save them.} Rose reassured, a ghostly hand gently breezing through his hair. {They will be fine. Everyone will be fine.}

{Rose is right! Just take deep breaths, John.} Jade encouraged.

John inhaled shakily before nodding his head shakily. Davesprite draped his wing closer around the ravenet as he sat on the Heir’s left; Bal frantically patted John’s right hand to provide some comfort. John shook his head then, smiling tiredly at Bro, whose eyebrows were furrowed slightly.

“A-Anyways...after that happened...Rose...Rose went kinda beserk. She went Grimdark. She apparently saw what happened to...her mom. We both ended up trying to fight Jack, but, uh...I had not known what he could do.” John lifted his right hand up to his chest, rubbing it with a wry smile. “Let’s just say that I kinda...got used to the feeling of being skewered.”

John lowered his hand to his side as Balthazar returned to gently holding it. He paused for a moment, contemplating before he continued.

“A lot of sh** went down. People dying left and right. I completed the Scratch while Dave and Rose went to set the Tumor off. Jade was working on reviving the frogs on her planet with another Dave while also building her house up…” John let a shaky smile appear on his lips. “Things became...somewhat better after that, I guess…” He murmured softly. “Everyone else suddenly reached God Tier level and we met our troll friends--I’ll tell you more about them later, Bro.” The Heir added when he saw the raised eyebrows from the Strider.

John leaned back into the pillow behind him.

“...Dave and Rose were on the meteor with the trolls...Jade, the sprite version of Dave, and I were on a Prospit ship. While we were apart from each other, both of us traveled for three years to reach our new destination: the alternate universe created by the Scratch.” Blue eyes flickered across Bro’s face. “The three years were rather...troublesome in a way. Bonds were made and broken at the same time. I...I wasn’t a very good frien--”

{Hey, don’t say that, John!} Jade protested, hands waving around in front of the ravenet frantically. {You can’t blame yourself like that!}

John let a bitter smile dart across his face, but he didn’t say anything back; he simply continued with his story.

“Finally, after three years, we finally come in contact with the Scratch versions of you,” Bro perked up in surprise. “Rose’s mom, my nana, and Jade’s grandpa.” John smiled amusedly. “All of you were 16 when we met you--all of you quite similar to the people we knew years ago.” He chuckled weakly. “...Meeting you guys was quite the series of unfortunate events...and I had to actually go back for a bit to fix some things. A-Anyways, meeting the alternate, teen versions of you guys was pretty fun.”

Bro shifted in his seat, elbows now propped on his knees as he watched John with a raised eyebrow, obviously interested. But he kept silent. John smiled fondly at this...but then his lips slowly turned downwards.

“...However...it was apparent that the Scratch wasn’t enough to keep us all safe. New enemies appeared besides Jack. There were alternate versions of Jack: Spades Slick and Lord Jack. This also included the troll Empress, the Condesce. And also…...also…” John paused, eyes clouded with emotion before he managed to focus on Bro again. “...Lord English.

He shut his eyes, using Bal’s hand and Davesprite’s wing on him as something to ground him. He tried to not think of the blood, the sandy dunes, the cracked sky--but oh God, the blood. He never knew so much blood could be held in one body--

John shook his head slowly and swallowed. His gaze blurry with tears, the Heir lifted his iGlasses up and sniffled softly, quickly rubbing his right arm over his eyes. Clearing his throat, John lowered his iGlasses back over his eyes, gaze concentrated on the floor now.

“...I......the battles against the Condesce, Lord Jack, and Spades Slick were fought with all we had. We won. But...the victory was short lived when I opened that God d**n door.” John sucked in a breath. “I...I don’t even know if I could’ve done something to stop the problem. Maybe I didn’t do something right from the very beginning. Maybe I should’ve--no, I would’ve killed Callie in the process too, but--”

{John...John, your breathing--shhh, shhh...it’s alright. John--} Rose murmured, her face twisted with frustration because she couldn’t exactly touch John to comfort him.

F**k, he’s rambling again. His entire body is starting to shake too as he curls into himself, his breath coming out of him in harsh pants.

“I-I didn’t know what to do and everything--oh God, Lord English was--e-everything was happening so fast and everyone was j-just--”

John flinched when something landed on his head...before it ruffled his hair gently. The Heir blinked...and blinked again. Slowly...he lifted his gaze from the floor he was staring at.

“Kid…...that’s enough.” Bro murmured as he pushed his shades up past his eyes and into his hair. His golden-orange eyes watched John carefully before they softened slightly. “...If it’s getting to be too much, then you stop, alright? Just like that. I won’t be upset or anything, honest. And--hey, no need for tears, Jegus, I’m not good with stuff like that...”

John hiccuped softly, only realizing now that tears were dripping like mini waterfalls out of his eyes. The Heir moved his iGlasses up as he rubbed at his eyes feverishly with his right hand. Davesprite gently grasped the ravenet’s left hand and Bal clung to John’s right side.

The Heir worked on steadying his breathing first as Bro continued to ruffle his hair for a moment before dropping his hand. The older Strider sighed, grimacing as he noted how puffy John’s eyes were.

Look, Egbert, I’m not forcing you to bleed you past out to me.” Bro leaned forward slightly, elbow propped on his knees. “You can go at your own pace. All I asked was for every detail to not be left out--not for you to break down, alright?”

{That’s f**king right. Do you hear that, John? Calm down and chill…} Phantom-Dave murmured.

...

...John nodded slowly, right palm pressed against his forehead as he let out a shaky laugh. His smile was strained as he bit his lip, managing to make eye-contact with Bro for a split second before returning his gaze to the ground.

Davesprite watched the ongoings for a moment before sighing softly. He reached out to ruffle John’s hair before looking over at Bro.

I can continue John’s story.” John lifted his head, startled, as he gazed at Davesprite with wide eyes. Davesprite smiled grimly at Bro, but he directed his next words at the Heir. “But John, you’re going to rest now, got it?

John opened his mouth, about to say he could continue, but Davesprite gently cuffed the other in the head with a wing. Davesprite then carefully floated off of the bed, gently taking John by the shoulders and pushing the ravenet onto the bed, repositioning the pillow so it could be behind the Heir’s head. The sprite brushed a hand on John’s forehead, grimacing slightly--his eyes briefly studied the Light tattoo on his forehead before he moved John’s bangs back into place.

F**k...you’re starting to run a small fever too. See, you need to rest now. Me and Bro will talk outside--

“But...I still wanted to know how you got...here…” John mumbled.

{John,} Ghost-Jade strained out, gaze narrowed. {You need rest.}

John puffed out a breath before turning his gaze to Davesprite. The sprite huffed, gazing into John’s eyes.

...Bec gave me the code, you idiot.” The explanation was enough for John to understand, but he wasn’t satisfied.

“...But...b-but then you weren’t supposed to--!” John tried to sit up, but Davesprite pushed him back onto the bed, sighing softly. The Heir gripped the sprite's wrist, another protest on his lips--

John...if you truly know me, you know I wouldn’t listen to the pile of sh** at the end of that journal.” Davesprite sent a sharp look at John over his shades. “Best bros don’t let best bros die when they can put a stop to it.

John’s grip loosened and he looked up at Davesprite. The Heir’s gaze slowly looked off to the side...before he sighed. John finally let go and fell limp against the bed, looking at Davesprite with a tired, sad smile.

“...Fine…...I guess...I’ll rest then.”

Davesprite nodded in approval, pushing his shades up to cover his eyes properly.

Good. And Bal,” The said salamander turned his head to look curiously at the sprite. “Watch over the nerd for me, will ya’?

Bal blinked before he nodded his head feverently, bubbles of Breath whispering at his lips as he gazed determinedly at Davesprite.

“Of course, lad!” Bal crawled across the bed and settled next to the left side of John’s head, gently placing a clawed hand over the Heir’s eyes, forcing them shut. “C’mon, m’boy, you heard him. You’re going to sleep, John.”

John laughed tiredly as his eyes were squished shut, but he adjusted his body so he could be a bit more comfortable; the ghosts disappeared from view.

“Okay, okay…Mr. Bossy…” He huffed out. He tilted his head in Davesprite’s direction but he kept his eyes shut. “Be careful out there...imps could still be lingering around outside…”

Davesprite rolled his eyes--I can take care of a few imps, John--but he reached over and ruffled John’s hair. After that, the sprite looked over at Bro and jerked his head towards the door. Bro nodded and silently got out of the computer chair, following Davesprite out of John’s room; the Thief shut the door behind him.

Davesprite silently drifted over the floor, not really needing to use his wings. Bro followed Davesprite all the way to the balcony, where the sprite finally spread his wings out for a moment, stretching, before relaxing. Davesprite floated a few more meters forward and crossed his arms, propping his elbows against the rail surrounding the balcony; the sprite waved Bro over, who also crossed his arms but leaned backwards against the railing. Davesprite watched LOWAS for a moment, taking in the scene before finally speaking.

...John had died saving you in my timeline. If I hadn’t come back then...well, John would be sleeping forever, I guess.” He murmured as Bro tensed up slightly beside him. “Jack quickly finished you off after he struck down John...but you came back eventually cause your death wasn’t Heroic. John’s death on the other hand was…

Davesprite hunched his shoulders and he leaned further against the rail, gaze shadowed as he stared off into the distance...he let out a dry chuckle.

I guess...not all gods are immortal, Bro.

That one sentence told so much.

Bro furrowed his eyebrows.

“...What’s all this about Heroic deaths?”

Davesprite hummed softly, arms uncrossing as he circled a hand in the air in a slightly nonchalant way.

There’s some strange rules about death once you reach God Tier level. There are three deaths once you become a God of something.” Davesprite held up one finger. “The first one is the Heroic death. It usually happens when the person who dies sacrifices themself for something noble or--ya’ know, as the name states--something heroic.” He held up another finger. “The second type of death is the Just death. Just deaths are given to those who have committed evil crimes--or they’re just plain evil.” He held up one more taloned finger. “The third type of death is just...death. You die without a Heroic or Just reason. But then...you’re able to come back--you’re able to live again if your death isn’t Heroic or Just.

Davesprite dropped his hand and let it swing lazily over the railing. A rueful smile darted across the sprite’s face.

...John sacrificed his life to save you. That counted as a Heroic death so he couldn’t...he didn’t come back to life like you did…

The sprite sighed gruffly, moving his shades up to rub at his eyes. Bro looked off to the side for a moment to give the other some privacy to recollect himself. Davespirte then cleared his throat and continued, adjusting his shades back onto his nose.

After John’s death...Jack went after Rose’s mom and Dadbert. He ended up...killing Rose--f**k that son of a b***h Jack--and well...things went downhill after that.” Davesprite shook his wings out, watching loose feathers get caught in the small breeze that went by. “Thankfully, Jack just couldn’t kill Jade--probably because her demonic dog was fused with the b*****d. But then months later, you came in--you sacrificed yourself to protect me from Jack, and you f**king--!

Davesprite then suddenly slammed his fist onto the rail, breaking through the white wood. The railing stood no chance against Davesprite’s raw strength and snapped easily like a brittle twig. Bro barely moved at all, merely watching with alert eyes as Davesprite let a scowl cross his usually blank face.

F**king Jack Noir--!” Davesprite suddenly cut himself off...and shook his head.

He moved away from the broken railing and took deep, calming breaths, hovering back and forth along the balcony as if he were pacing.

...

...Davesprite’s wings finally settled and his shoulders slumped. The sprite looked over at Bro, who was now no longer leaning against the railing.

...Sorry.” Davesprite finally murmured hoarsely. “I just...I should’ve been there for both John and you.

Bro furrowed his eyebrows and shook his head.

“You were all the way on LOHAC and you had no f**king idea what was going on--don’t blame yourself or I’ll kick your a**.”

Davesprite chuckled dryly at that, shaking his head fondly before he straightened his back slightly, gazing up at the fireflies that were trapped within the clouds.

...Imagine my surprise--a year after that collective sh** happened--when a sprite version of Jade’s dog suddenly appeared at the apartment.” His eyebrows creased as he smiled wryly. “...At first, I was like ‘what the f**king he**’? And then he warped a bunch of sh**--not actual sh** though because I would’ve been he**a pissed--into my room before absconding.

Davesprite lowered his gaze and stared ahead.

Before I could pester Jade about the sh** that her dog left in my room...I noticed that it spelled something.” Davesprite huffed softly. “413JE. The objects that Bec left in my room spelt 413JE.

Davesprite turned to look back at Bro, arms crossing.

...At first, I was like ‘what kind of sh** is this’? But then I thought long and hard about it. I realized it was code for something--and where else had I seen code similar to the one Bec gave me? On the back of the f**king captchalogue cards.

Davesprite drifted along the balcony, stretching his wings out again before settling.

...So I went to grab some cruxite and carved the sh**. After that, I went to the Alchemiter and had whatever code I got alchemized.” Davesprite stopped floating until he hovered above the Alchemiter on John’s balcony. “...I had nothing else to do, really. The less b***hy trolls were gone for some reason and we were back to being strangers….maybe it was because John was gone or things were going to sh**?

Davesprite sighed and shook his head and lifted his gaze back to Bro.

Anyways...I had no other idea what else to do, so I was left with what I got out of the code.

Davesprite reached into his captchlogue deck and smiled tiredly at the worn notebook that appeared in his hands.

...I got this. A ratty-looking notebook." He rubbed a taloned thumb over the cover, his expression looking soft. “Before I could dismiss it as some sort of f**king prank…” Davesprite’s smile was bittersweet and wistful. "...It opened.

“Great, a f**king old book--best f**king prank of the gog d**n sh**ty year I’ve been having.” Dave gritted out as he gazed at the pale-blue notebook at the center of Alchemiter.

Dave played with the cuff of the white suit he was currently wearing, loosening the red tie around his neck as he moved forward, stepping onto the platform of the Alchemiter and swiping the book off of the surface, a small frown on his lips. Dave gritted his teeth, about to toss the book into the lava surrounding the appartment--before a harsh breeze blew by, knocking the book out of his hands.

Blinking in surprise, Dave watched the book flop a meter away before coming to a halt. The blonde stared...because he caught a hint of familiar blue when the cover was blown off.

Dave blinked and slowly moved forward, stepping off of the Alchemiter. The blonde bent down and grabbed the notebook, slowly standing up as he held it in his hands.

Holding the notebook with one hand, Dave carefully--his fingers shook--touched the blue-inked words on the frail-looking paper. Dave blinked before captchalogging the notebook, quickly flashstepping towards the rooftop door, flinging it open.

He didn’t care as he heard the door crash harshly against the wall; he focused on going down the stairs--he focused on getting to his room. After a few sharp turns, Dave finally made it to his room.

Dave entered his room and immediately slashed through the imps--he had instinctively grabbed a random katana out of his Strife Deck--that were lingering around with his sword. He barely focused on collecting any grist before he sat down on his bed.

Dave stared distantly ahead for a moment before he reached into his captchalogue deck. The blue notebook popped out into the open onto his lap...and stayed there.

Dave leaned back on the wall behind him...before he carefully moved his fingers to grab the book and open to the first page.

He barely heard the sound of paper moving--or any other sound really--as he gazed at the blue, blue, blue ink on the crinkled, white paper. His fingers brushed over the words that were there before he began to read.

Day 1

So Rose gave me a book to write in. She said it would help sort out my thoughts…

...Heh. What am I supposed to write? Uh...I guess...”introductions” or something? Haha! Anyways...my name is John Egbert. I’m currently 16 and a half years old right now. I’m a Heir of Breath.

Dave Strider is my best bro. Rose Lalonde is the best therapist I could have so far. Jade Harley is my biological sister. Dirk Strider is the bro of my bro, Dave. Jake English is the...cousin(?) of my sister Jade. Roxy Lalonde is the...mom of my best friend Rose. Jane Crocker is technically my...grandma and mom? It’s weird...

And Karkat Vantas is my best friend. And...

Well, in simple terms, everyone I know so far is my awkward, awesome, and amazing family, hehe.

...

God, I hope I can protect them all.

This is John Egbert. I guess I’ll come back to write some more tomorrow...

Bye. :B

Dave paused as he finished the first entry. Carefully, he blinked and pushed his shades up, fingers pressing against his shut eyes as he took a few steadying breaths.

This was some sort of...journal. John’s journal. Dave felt...somewhat comforted to see the familiar blue and handwriting of his best bro…

...But something didn’t seem right. Dave’s red gaze went over the first entry again before they stopped at a particular part.

“...’I’m currently sixteen and a half’?” He murmured to himself. “But John was only…”

Dave paused. His eyebrows furrowed as he then carefully flipped the page.

Day 2

We moved camp just recently. It was thanks to the ghost army that we got away. But Vriska...

...

Terezi is devastated. But she’s slowly healing from her loss. The trolls are taking it the hardest since they knew Vriska the most. Karkat and I are working on how to direct everyone on what to do next.

Retreat is a better option, but we must

The words pause before a frantic line is written at the bottom of the second entry.

Gotta go. Lord English is attacking.

Dave’s fingers brushed over the hasty words. He frowned slightly. Who the he** was this Lord English? Well, he’s now labeled as Lord D**khead in his mental ‘must-beat-into-a-pile-of-sh**’ list.

He didn’t know any ‘Terezi’, ‘Karkat’, or ‘Vriska’. So...they’re the names of the trolls? He narrowed his eyes as he quickly turned the page.

His grip tightened around the book when he saw small drops of rusty red on the white page.

Day 5

Sorry for not writing in a while. I got a nasty head wound when I was thrown back by an explosion three days ago. Jane was able to heal me of my head trama at least.

And--oops, ignore that spot of blood here. Anyways, we had to move our camp again after Lord English found us. Thank goodness Roxy and Jade were able to help us get out of there.

Also

Dave blinked and raised an eyebrow when there was a long line that went across the notebook. The blue line was connected to the ‘o’ after ‘Also’.

Suddenly, familiar lavender ink was on the paper.

I am writing on this notebook to remind John that, while this book is to help sort out your thoughts, you are not allowed to move after injuring yourself. If anyone ever reads this journal, understand that John is now going to rest.

Dave labeled the lavender ink as Rose and quirked a small smirk. He turned the page and found a new entry.

Day 7

Yeeeeesh, Rose is such a mom! She even wrote in here to remind me! Anyways...everything is going okay, I guess...

I’m getting to know more about the Scratch versions of Dave, Jade, and Rose’s guardians. Nanna and Jane are so similar to each other. Dave’s big bro and Dirk are...different from each other though--well, that’s what I heard from Dave...

Dave blinked and gazed at the blue words. Scratch versions? Was the writing in this journal done sometime in the future? The blonde then sat back contemplatively.

This notebook was written in a time in the future. But when did John--? His mind slowly began to make its own conclusion. The possibility--although it seemed so impossible--bubbled to the surface of his mind.

John was a time traveler.

Any other time would’ve been awesome...but now it was just the most saddest, f**ked up thing Dave thought of. Dave set the notebook to the side as he removed his shades and set it on the bed, looking at the ground as he ran a hand through his hair.

The nightmares John had began to make sense. Where they died--

Dave paused. Why didn’t he travel back in time with John? There was no way he would’ve left the nerd to go back alone--

HyaAhAahahHaahAAHaaA!

Dave gritted his teeth and shot up from the bed, grabbing his katana from his Strife Deck. He blamed the gog d**n Crowsprite for flying into the remains of that nightmare doll’s body.

“Shut the f**k up, Cal.” Usually, he would be calm and collected, but the sh** he was starting to uncover with the help of the notebook were tipping the scales of his composure.

Calsprite flew into the room through the door, continuing to cackle as his rolling eyes gazed at Dave. Dave’s red gaze cut across the room and stared the sprite down.

“Get.  Out.”

HAhEhaEHahahaEEHEEAhahaHaaHaAAAA--!

Dave darted forward and slashed at Calsprite’s neck. While the sprite did help the blonde in combat occasionally, the sh** didn’t know when to stop f**king laughing.

Calsprite flew out of the way, still cackling, before he flew through the window. Dave gritted his teeth as the laughter ringed in his head for a moment. The blonde took a calming breathing, letting it out with a soft sigh.

Dave brought his gaze back to the notebook lying on his bed. The Strider huffed and stored his sword back into his Strife Deck. Dave went back to his bed and swiped his shades off of it, tucking it into his suit pocket.

The blonde sat back onto his bed and grabbed the notebook again, flipping the book open to the spot he had stopped at.

Days 8-12 were somewhat the same. There were small reports of battle strategies with the troll named Karkat. Dave raised an eyebrow when he found a few sketches of unfamiliar faces--he never knew John could draw so well…

Moving his hand over one page, Dave studied the scowling face that was drawn with blue ink. He blinked in mild surprise at the small, nubby horns that were drawn on top of a head of messy locks. Dave darted his gaze to the words below the small sketch.

Karkat. He’s an awesome friend-leader.

Dave blinked in idle surprise as he studied the entire picture. So this was Karkat? Dave raised an eyebrow and smirked.

This Karkat looks like the kind of guy you would enjoy irritating.

Dave turned his attention to the next page before frowning slightly. Purple stained the page…...was it jelly or something?

Day 13

We recently got Gamzee back. Well...right now, he’s...unstable. He keeps violently snapping and clawing at anyone who gets near him.

I guess Lord English’s mind manipulation got him deep. Karkat is doing his best to calm him down but

The blue words are cut off. Purple and red suddenly stains the page. Dave gripped the notebook tightly and tensed up. He quickly flipped the page.

Day 15

Sorry, I missed yesterday. Gamzee, uh...suddenly came into my tent and tried to rip me to shreds during the middle of the night. My left arm got snapped like a twig! I guess he escaped from his tent with the other trolls and decided to go after me since I sleep the closest next to them.

But...I think I helped calm Gamzee down. I had no idea it would work, but I started to hum one of my piano songs. And well...haha, it worked wonders. Through the pain, I felt him freeze and he stared down at me. At first, I thought he would attack me again. However, as I continued to hum...nothing happened.

Opening my eyes I...

...

Loneliness can do a lot to a person, I guess.

Dave’s eyes paused at the drawing below John’s entry--it was drawn in the ravenet’s perspective.

Dave was reminded of a clown with the ridiculous face paint that John managed to sketch out. Three jagged lines ran across the face of--Gamzee, was it?--the troll. The face was twisted in a threatening snarl, lips pulled back to reveal sharp teeth.

But Dave’s attention was caught by the eyes of Gamzee that John put so much attention to.

He could understand now, what John had felt. There was something within the eyes that John had drawn made Dave feel a bit of...nostalgia. Years back when he was just a kid, before he contacted John, Rose, or Jade online, Dave never had friends.

Dave scoffed silently to himself. Like, who would want to be friends with a freak with red eyes? The other kids were afraid of Dave. Bro couldn’t do anything about it, nor did he care at the time.

So, at a young age, Dave learned what true loneliness was.

And now, Dave gazed into the drawn eyes of Gamzee, feeling nostalgic because he’s seen the same eyes in a mirror before.

Dave looked at the small words written beneath the drawing.

Familiar Eyes.

Dave snorted softly. John was getting quite poetic now, wasn’t he?

Dave continued to read the entry.

Gamzee calmed down with my humming. While my arm did hurt like a b***h, he slowly fell asleep--ON TOP OF ME! Like, jeez!

I some how managed to fall asleep too--but boy, I woke up to quite the commotion. Everyone thought Gamzee killed me or something, but I wasn’t dead or anything, seriously...

Anyways, Gamzee’s been sticking close to my side lately. Before he could go into any blood-rages, I would hum and he would immediately settle.

I guess I’m his...moirail? I’m already moirails with a lot of the ghost-trolls and the trolls that are still alive. Hehe, I must be some sort of moirail-magnet...

Karkat’s repairing his relationship with Gamzee now since the clown-guy is thinking clearer. I think I helped repair their moirail relationship, so now I’m a auspistice? Actually, no. That usually goes with a kismesis pair. Argh, troll quadrants are still confusing...

Anyways...I think relationships are slowly getting fixed.

Also, my arm still hurts like a b***h even though Jane healed it. At least Gamzee apologized for it. :D

Dave then raised an eyebrow at the purple ink at the end of John’s entry.

Honk! :o)

The blue ink returned below the purple.

Oh, that was Gamzee. See, we’re friends now! :B

The purple ink returns.

Honk! Johnbro is the motherf**king best. :o)

Dave’s lips thinned into a blank line. He had no idea what to think about this Gamzee-guy. The blonde sighed as he then flipped to a new page.

Day 16

Hey, I got some mechanic lessons with Dirk and Jake! They're really smart and well...Dirk left the instructions for Hal’s body with me for some reason. Anyways, I copied it all down. The instructions are on the next page and the page after that one too.

Dave blinked and looked at the next page, lifting an eyebrow at the rather detailed information. He checked the next page and hummed in interest before turning back to the original page.

I’ve met Hal...or rather...Hal mixed with Equius in a sprite form. Dirk told me that Hal was a bit hard to trust, but I disagree. Hal is a copy of Dirk’s brain after all, so I would’ve trusted Hal if I met him when he was himself instead of a mixed up sprite.

Also, Lord English hasn’t attacked for a while. I have a feeling he’s plotting on what to do next...

Dave turned the next few pages.

The next few entries were the same. Small reports on how others were doing. New facts about trolls. Dave then stopped one one page that was slightly stained with...blood.

Dave glared intently at the page, reading the words carefully.

Day 32

Lord English got me today. It’s my fault, really, heh. I wasn’t paying attention enough, so I lost my stomach--didn’t really feel it when I died...

Oh well. At least my death wasn’t Heroic or something.

Dave furrowed his eyebrows at nonchalant John was being about his death. The blonde took a calming breath and continued on.

I should’ve expected his speed and strength. However, I found that movements with his right hand are much more faster than his left. Perhaps I’ll aim my next few attacks to his left side? It’s worth a shot, but he might notice. I’ll have to mix my attacks up a bit...

...

I guess that’s it for today. Bye.

Dave turned the page and raised his eyebrows at the skull-like face he was greeted with.

He furrowed his eyebrows at the drawing. This...person had...pool balls for eyes? Dave darted his gaze down and his lips tugged down slightly into a frown.

Lord English.

So this was Lord English? Dave darted his gaze back up to the picture, taking in each detail. Lord English was roaring in this picture, a he**ish grin formed with his sharp teeth. Dave then blinked and noticed red ink in the corner of the picture...written in his own handwriting.

f**k this guy

Blue ink was written below the red.

That’s Dave in red ink. He’s such a dork. :B

and you’re the king of dorks, john Red responds.

Shut up, Dave. Blue writes back.

Dave quirked a small smile at this. His gaze then darted to the next page. It was filled with...notes? Dave stared at the long list of info that was written in the notebook. The blonde only went over a few...

Lord English tends to go after masses of groups. It’s probably best to be in smaller groups then.

Users of Time are definitely key players in the fight against Lord English. Dave and Aradia help us get breathers. Karkat is saying we should probably have at least two Time-users on the battlefield.

Void and Space-users are also important to get us around the battlefield. At least one Void or Space-user must be within a small group.

And the battle plans went on and on…

Dave flipped through multiple pages, and they were filled with more battle tips and small entries of how everyone was doing…

Dave finally stopped on a particular page, a sense of foreboding creeping up his spine as he smoothed the wrinkled page out a bit. Dave blinked as he stared at the messily scribbled words. It was getting more sloppy the more the Strider read...

Day ??

I can’t keep track of them anymore; the days. I haven’t written in a long while. Time is a strange thing now. I’m 18 now? I think?

Lord English is attacking more and more often.

Dave turned to the next page, stomach dropping slightly.

Day ??

We lost Dirk and Jake today. Everyone is...

Dave clenched the book in his hands when he saw the obvious tears marks smudging out the blue ink in a few spots. The page is very wrinkled, and Dave could only imagine what the ravenet had felt during that time.

I don’t know anymore. We moved camp again, and I

I can’t do this anymore I need this to stop I’m so scared The nightmares are getting worse

John had scratched his next words out multiple times before finally settling on something.

I need to stay strong for them. We found another weak spot in Lord English’s movements again. He can make five shots in succession with the pool balls in his mouth before he needs to rest. The window is ten seconds. I haven’t found a bigger opening just yet.

Dave’s fingers trembled for a moment before they finally flipped to a new page.

Day ??

We lost Jane. People are dying more. It’s hard to keep everyone together.

More tears stain the page.

But we’re still together. We're gonna make it out of here somehow. Maybe I could...send them away with my zappy powers? Somewhere far away so Lord English can’t reach them...and I’ll stay to see if I can do something about him...

...Yeah. That would be nice.

Dave scowled at this.

“No way in he** are you doing this by yourself.” He muttered to himself before he turned to a new page.

Day ??

I told Dave my idea. He punched me before he hugged me. He called me an idiot before grabbing everyone in the camp. I had asked Dave what the he** he was doing and we just...we ended up making cuddle piles.

Everyone called me an idiot for thinking like that and I guess...that idea is down the drain. They said if I ever zap them out of here, they will come back to the battlefield, find me, smack me on the head, and then cuddle the he** out of me.

Dave’s gaze softened at the sight of tear stains on the pages. He felt that this time they were tears of happiness.

I have the best family I could ever hope to have.

Dave sighed softly, head leaning back to thunk against the wall behind him.

“....F**k.”

Dave moved one hand from the notebook and dragged it across his face as he gritted his teeth.

John didn't deserve sh** like this.

Dave sighed deeply once more before returning his gaze back to the notebook, taking it in both hands as he flipped to a new page.

Day ??

...I have a bad feeling about today. Something is not right. I think

Most of the page is burned and Dave’s hands tensed on the book. He quickly flipped to the other pages, finding them burnt…

...

Dave blinked when he finally found a clean page.

04/13/09

Well...this is my first log in quite a while. An unexpected amount of events occurred and now...I’m back at the beginning. Lord English had attacked the camp when we had least expected it. My notebook ended up severely burnt in the process as I tried to evacuate everyone.

...

I was the only one left standing with Dave, Rose, and Jade just barely hanging at my side. I was prepared to fend Lord English off while those three escaped but...

They have given me a piece of their Aspects. And now...I’m back in time. Back to the very beginning. It’s...surreal to wake up in my bed. It was like...it was all just a dream. Or rather, one big nightmare.

But...here’s my new chance. I can save them all again. I can do better this time.

...

But...if things went wrong, then I’m entrusting you, Dave, to share this information with the others. So...if you’re reading this Dave, I guess things didn’t work out for me, hehe. I’m really sorry about that. And...if you haven't figured it out yet...well...I’m a time traveler. Hehe...yeah...

Things just didn’t work out.

Dave gripped the notebook tightly. Holy f**k there were so many things that he wanted to shout at John and shake him by the shoulders. Dave took a calming breath and continued to read.

Please be careful when you’re dealing with Lord English and any other enemy that might come about. I made short notes on the Condesce, Lord Jack, and Spades Slick on another page.

Please don’t travel back in time, Dave. I don’t want you to end up...like Davesprite. I hurt him badly...and I don’t want to make the same mistake again. So DO NOT travel back in time to save me if I die or something.

Once again...I’m sorry. If you’re reading this...then I failed you--you and everyone. I’m so f**king sorry.

Please...take care.

Your best bro,
John Egbert, the Heir of Breath.

Dave blinked...and blinked again. He stared at the blue ink on the paper, moving a thumb to brush over the name that was there. Slowly, he stood up from his bed, holding the notebook in one hand as he walked towards the window.

He gazed at the lava that bubbled around his apartment building, watching gray clouds billow in the sky. He heard the grinding gears in the distance, listening to the small beat they ticked out. He took a deep breath...and exhaled.

A breeze blew by and the pages of the notebook suddenly turned back to the center of the book, a place that Dave had skipped over. The blonde blinked as he then...gazed into familiar, blue eyes.

It was a picture; a picture with familiar and new faces. John had his tongue sticking out in a goofy fashion. Dave, in the photo, had an arm slung around John’s shoulders. Jade made bunny ears behind John. Rose merely smiled softly. Karkat was scowling nearby in the picture, but his expression looked...softer. Gamzee was lazily slinging an arm around Karkat’s shoulders. A...troll in red shades was grinning slyly beside Karkat’s head. Another troll in red robes was grinning widely as she held onto the arm of a troll who had two eye patches over his eyes.

Dave raised his eyebrows in surprise when he saw four familiar, yet unfamiliar, faces near John. Studying the faces...Dave concluded that they were the Scratch versions of his big bro, Jade’s grandpa, John’s nana, and Rose’s mom.  Other...ghost-trolls(?) were in the back.

Everyone was squished together, posing for the camera. Their gazes looked tired and he**ish...but they were determined. They would stick together, even though they were all just shards of glass put together messily and hastily with glue; they were still going strong.

Dave lowered his gaze to the words written below the picture that was taped into the notebook.

My One-of-a-kind Family.

Dave blinked. Slowly...he closed the book and captchalogged it. Dave stuffed one hand into his pockets and gazed outside again. He moved his free hand to take his shades out of his breast pocket and flicked them open, setting them over his red eyes.

“...Welp, John.” He smirked as he watched LOHAC. “Sorry, but I’m coming back to save your gog d**n a**. There’s no way in he** you’re dying. And you’re not going to do anything by yourself anymore.”

With that, Dave turned on his heel and exited his room. He needed to plan a bit before he went barging into the past. Dave stuffed his other hand into his free pocket, humming to himself.

He needed to see Jade.

//(One Year Later)//

After one year of planning and talking with Jade, Dave was finally ready to leave. Dave now stood on Jade’s island on LOFAF, snow piling up slightly on his shoulders. Jade stood a distance away from the Strider, eyes sad but encouraging. She was dressed in a brown trench-coat, a black sweater, a long, grey skirt, and black boots.

Dave sighed softly, looking at her with a weary smirk.

“Well...Jade…” Dave murmured, dressed in a white suit and black slacks. “...This is goodbye, I guess.”

Jade gazed back at the other, her gaze teary. She smiled shakily as she brought the brown jacket she was currently wearing closer to her body.

“Yeah…”

Dave gritted his teeth. While he was traveling back in time to save the others...he was abandoning Jade in this timeline. He wanted to give her one last hug...but he felt that she didn’t need an a**hole like him to give her hugs.

The blonde slowly turned around, about to bring his turntables out--

...

...Dave blinked in surprise as warm arms wrapped around his midsection, holding him tightly, comforting the Strider’s nerves slightly. The arms shook slightly and Dave paused, feeling a head bury itself into his back.

“...Good luck, Dave.” Jade murmured as she hugged the Strider tighter, eyes squeezing shut as tears pricked the corners of her eyes. “Kick those a**es for me, okay?”

Dave blinked, breath fogging in the open before he softened his gaze. He turned around and returned the hug, gently running a hand through her raven locks.

“Of course.”

Jade sniffled, giving one last squeeze before backing away. She waved shakily at Dave, a wide grin stretching across her cheeks. She now no longer looked sad, smiling brightly for Dave.

“Go get ‘em, Strider!”

Dave huffed out a fond chuckle and saluted the ravenette before bringing his turntables out.

“...Bye, Jade. And thank you for being the most bada** girl I ever met.”

Jade giggled softly, giving Dave a shaky thumbs-up...before Dave disappeared in a flash of white light.

~~

Dave squinted his eyes as he stepped out of a bright, white light--

“...What the f**k…?”

Dave blinked and turned his head to see a very familiar face looking back at him. Sending his past-self a weary smirk, Dave brushed the snow off of his shoulders as he captchalogged his turntables. He glanced off to the side and eyed Crowsprite, who was drifting around lazily. Dave glanced down at his watch quickly and clicked his tongue.

F**king he**......I’m running on a tight schedule now.” Dave muttered before lifting his gaze to look at his past-self again. “I’ll probably see you later. But now, I gotta save my best bro’s a**.”

Without a further ado, Dave leapt forward and merged with the sprite. It felt weird...feeling appendages get torn away from him and new ones added. But he didn’t wait any longer as he stretched out his new wings and took off to the sky.

Davesprite rushed through the sky as he flapped his wings slightly. He broke through the clouds and quickly looked for LOWAS. Once his gaze focused on the planet, Davesprite rushed forward.

After darting across a large expanse of space, Davesprite broke through the clouds of LOWAS. Once he was past all of the clouds, Davesprite darted his gaze around to the sound of fighting--he caught sight of bright branches of red light.

With a grunt, Davesprite soared forward, pulling the sword out of his chest. Darting past branches of red light, he caught sight of Bro and Jack--John was suddenly there, hammer raised to block--

John’s body hunches with a cough and the Heir widened his eyes. Davesprite tensed when he saw John’s body seem to lock up while Jack--NO F**KING WAY THAT WAS HAPPENING.

Davesprite flew forward and instantly clashed with Jack’s blade, forcing the a**hole backwards. Jack snarled and quickly retreated with a flap of his wings.

...And the rest, you know.” Davesprite murmured as he looked over at Bro, who had been listening with rapt attention.

Although Bro had been listening, he was flipping through the pages of John’s journal. Finally, the Thief lifted his gaze stared at Davesprite for a long moment...before sighing. Bro ran a hand through his hair before sighing once more.

“...Okay.”

Davesprite raised an eyebrow.

...’Okay’?

Bro shrugged and walked over to the sprite, reaching up and ruffling the younger’s hair roughly, causing Davesprite to squawk indignantly. The Thief smirked lazily at the sprite-version of his little brother, handing the notebook back to him.

“Thanks for telling me everything, li’l man. All I know now is that I need to be a better guardian and take care of you reckless brats.”

Davesprite fluffed his wings up in protest as Bro’s hand left his head, captchalogging the notebook at the same time.

Bro, you were already the coolest guardi--

“Nah, just shut up, Dave.” Bro cut the other off, yawning as he walked towards the door of the balcony. “I was a real b*****d back then and you can’t deny it.” Bro looked over his right shoulder at Davesprite. “...Let me have this chance to correct my mistakes.”

Davesprite blinked in surprise. Slowly...he finally nodded, a small smile flickered across his lips before he smirked lazily, floating after the Thief.

...How will we go about this, Bro?” Davesprite murmured once he floated beside Bro.

“...We’ll wait for Egbert to rest and wake up first.” Bro rolled his shoulders as he moved towards the balcony door. “Then we’ll probably head to Skaia.”

Davesprite hummed in acknowledgement before pausing. He stopped floating after Bro, and the Thief noticed. Bro slowly turned around and raised an eyebrow at the sprite.

“Dave--?”

...

Bro blinked, hands raised slightly from their usual relaxed position as...orange arms wrapped around his body. The Thief blinked his eyes rapidly in surprise before he slowly relaxed his form, hands hesitantly hovering over Davesprite’s back.

“Dave…?”

Sorry. Just...…” Davesprite hugged the other awkwardly but tighter. “......Heh...this is so...f**ked up.

Bro blinked again before slowly returning the hug, patting the other on the back lightly. Bro then returned the hug carefully, hesitantly, grounding Davesprite.

“......”

Davesprite then let go first, chuckling weakly as Bro released the sprite too. The sprite sighed running a hand through his hair as he sent a wobbly smirk at Bro. The Thief averted his gaze the brief wet drop that slipped off of Davesprite’s cheek and onto the ground.

Uh, sorry about that.” Davesprite murmured. “Just releasing pent up...feelings, I guess.

Davesprite laughed awkwardly, lowering his gaze to the ground as he floated above it. Bro watched the other carefully before extending an arm out.

“...Ya’ don’t have to apologize, li’l man.” Bro said back, reaching up to ruffle the sprite’s head again. “I’m...not the best person for these kind of things…...but I’m willing to give free, sappy, sh**ty hugs if it makes you feel better.”

Davesprite barked out a laugh and playfully swatted Bro’s hand off of his head. The Thief smirked back in response as Davesprite’s wings stretched out for a moment before relaxing.

Thanks...Bro…

Bro grunted in response before waving the other over. The two then went inside of the house, poking playful insults at each other.

==> Reader: Have brief time skip and see what Bro, Davesprite, and John are doing later on.

John sat up in bed, pillow propped up behind him against the wall again. His small fever had disappeared after a short nap. However, Bro was now napping, sleeping on the couch downstairs. Bal was curled up by the Heir’s right side, also snoozing. Davesprite, however, was awake and sitting beside John, lazily watching their surroundings. John was now comfortably gazing into the screens of his iGlasses, smiling sheepishly when he saw that he had missed a few messages.

-- timaeusTestified [ TT ] began pestering windybreathHeir [ WH ] at 9:12 --

TT: Heir.

TT: ...

TT: John, I’m back.

TT: John...?

WH: whoops, sorry for the late response, hal. :B

WH: a lot of things came up ever since the last time we pestered each other.

John smiled wearily. Heh...yeah...spilling all of your emotions out was ‘a lot of things’...

TT: Is that right...

John blinked his eyes when he noticed something new in the text.

WH: hey, you changed the color of your text!

TT: Yeah. I thought it would help assure you that you’re not talking to Dirk or something. Red now equals to Hal and orange is Dirk. Does that make sense?

John smiled softly at this, shifting back onto the pillow he was leaning back against.

WH: yep! thanks for that.

TT: Anyways, I completed my corrections. I’m sending you the edited photo.

TT: bodyprototypecomplete.jpeg.

John opened up the photo and quickly scanned the new directions. He smiled slightly at the small tips here and there before responding to Hal.

WH: cool! and thanks for labeling what type and kind of size of stuff i need.

TT: No prob.

TT: So...who’s helping you out?

John chuckled nervously to himself, earning a raised eyebrow from Davesprite, but the Heir merely waved the sprite off.

WH: uh...it’s gonna sound weird...but an alternate and older version of dirk is gonna help me out.

TT: ...

TT: ...Huh. Cool, I guess.

John rolled his eyes at this.

WH: you striders always seem to accept things so calmly. :B

TT: Eh. It’s something that grows on you.

TT: Anyways. How are you holding up? Time traveling...can be rathering stressing on a person.

John smiled wearily at this before responding.

WH: ...i’m getting better. i have a few friends beside me that know what i’m going through now. i feel less lonely. :B

TT: That’s good.

TT: ...Also...did you get to talk to Dirk’s bro yet?

John blinked before sighing softly. He scratched the back of his head as he hummed thoughtfully for a moment.

WH: not yet. i’m...still thinking about what i should say...

TT: Dude. You shouldn't be so worried about this, seriously.

TT: Even though you’re an alternate, younger version of the John that Dirk’s bro knew, I’m sure you two will get along easily.

WH: ...

WH: but what if i say something wrong? i’m not some sort of comedian. the dave i know isn’t a movie maker.

WH: i just want to warn dirk’s bro about the condesce...

TT: ...

TT: John, dude, you just need to take a deep breath and exhale. Let go of your worries and just believe in yourself. Although it sounds stupid and ridiculous, I’m just trying to reassure you that things will go fine.

TT: You’re best bros with an alternate version of Dirk’s bro. You’ll have this conversation in the bag.

John smiled hesitantly at this, eyes fond.

WH: thanks for your words of encouragement, hal.

TT: No prob, Egderp.

TT: What the he** is this.

John blinked, confused for a second before widening his eyes with panic. The most recently typed words were orange, meaning--

The red was quick to return to the screen.

TT: Oh sh**. Scatter, John. Dirk’s f**king here.

WH: bye hal! take care of yourself! D:

-- timaeusTestified [ TT ] ceased pestering windybreathHeir [ WH ] at 9:34 --

John sighed as he closed the chat window, running a hand through his hair nervously. Davesprite brushed a wing over the Heir’s shoulders, providing a half-hug for the ravenet.

Something wrong, bro?

John shrugged, smiling lopsidedly at the sprite.

“Er...well, the conversation with Hal was slightly compromised. But…I think things will work out okay.”

Davesprite nodded before lowering his gaze to the Heir’s arm.

...Your arm feeling better?

John huffed out a weary laugh.

“Not as sore anymore, I guess.” John moved his right hand to pluck at a few of the bandages. “But I think I’m alright.” The Heir leveled a determined gaze at Davesprite. “I’m ready to go.”

Davesprite studied the other sharply...before slowly nodding. The sprite then carefully floated off of the bed, extending a taloned hand out to John.

Then let’s go, Mr. Leader.

John smiled fondly at this before taking Davesprite’s hand, Bal slowly waking up at the Heir’s side. With a gentle tug, John was on his feet. Bal perked up and quickly crawled off of the bed and up John’s body, perching himself on the ravenet’s shoulder.

“John, I will not leave you this time!” Bal stated firmly, claws digging slightly into John’s shoulder. “I’m coming with you to make sure you won’t force yourself too much!”

John chuckled softly at this, letting go of Davesprite’s hands as he raised his hands in mock surrender.

“Alright...but…” John looked at the salamander with tired eyes of concern as he lowered his hands. “Please...please be careful.”

Bal nodded his head sharply, amber eyes filled with understanding.

“Of course, m’boy!”

John blinked before slowly raising an eyebrow at Bal.

“...You changed my nickname.”

Bal then grinned sheepishly at John.

“Ah! Well…” Bal popped a few spit bubbles, looking bashful. “I call you 'm’boy' now because...I’m starting to see you as like another son to me, haha!”

John widened his eyes in surprise before letting out a bright laugh.

“Yo, so you’re ready to go, kid?” A gruff voice entered the conversation.

Everyone turned their attention to the door, where Bro was casually leaning against it. John noticed with some amusement that the Thief had a slight bedhead, but the Heir ignored this and nodded in response. Bro hummed softly at that before moving out of the doorway, heading towards the balcony.

“Cool. Let’s go then.”

John and Davesprite followed the older Strider while Bal continued to stay on the Heir’s shoulder. Once outside and on the balcony, Bro, John, and Davesprite began to fly up. John laughed softly when Bal clung tighter to his shoulder before looking concernedly at the salamander.

“Afraid of heights?”

Bal laughed brightly, not a hint of strain in his voice. John was relieved to see that the other was simply in awe.

“Not at all, m’boy! This is just simply splendid!”

John chuckled before lifting his gaze to the clouds above.

“Just hold on tight then.”

The group of four then flew off into the sky.

Chapter Text

==> Reader: Be John.

==> John: Get to Skaia.

You fly through the sky, heart beating anxiously within your chest. You are now past the clouds of LOWAS, flying towards the blue light of Skaia. Davesprite flies beside you while Bro floats just up ahead of you two. While flying through space, the three of your equip your weapons.

The blue light of Skaia is getting closer and closer. You grip the Battleaxe of Haneul tighter in your hands as your blue eyes dart to Prospit for a split second when you all pass by it.

You hope Jade is doing alright…

You bring your gaze back to Skaia as you finally break through the atmosphere of the area. Bro’s gaze scans the area quickly, but your gaze is already on the castle that standing a small distance away. Bal moves on your shoulder, chirping softly as he follows your gaze. Davesprite and Bro notices you drifting in the direction of the castle.

While Davesprite floats to the side of you to make sure you won’t fly off, Bro--

...Bro suddenly freezes when he looks in the direction of the castle. His lips nearly twist into a snarl as he gazes longer and longer at the castle. Your stomach churns at that.

“...Kid.” Bro finally calls out to you. “If you don't--”

“I can go.” You cut in, voice hoarse. “I...I’ll be fine.” You swallow. “...Please. I can handle it.”

Bro hovers there, gazing at you sharply as his lips thin into a grim line.

“...Alright.” Bro finally says, shouldering his katana. He looks over at Davesprite. “Dave, look out for John, alright?”

Davesprite merely nods, shoulder gently bumping into yours, causing you to look at him. You see a small smile on Davesprites lips, but there’s a furrow in his eyebrows. He’s trying to reassure you, and your shoulders slump a little from their tense position. You smile anxiously at the sprite, returning the gentle bump of the shoulders before turning your gaze back to the castle.

Bal comfortingly paws at your shoulder as your blue, God Tier clothes ripple in the breeze that blew by--

CRACK.

You freeze before quickly jerking your gaze above the castle. Slowly, your eyes widen. The wind is starting to pick up, but it’s not because of the Breath. Bro narrows his gaze up at the dark, roiling clouds above the castle.

“What the f**k is that?” Bro’s voice was tight, uncomfortable.

You stare up at the darkening sky and your heart plummets slightly in your chest. You feel the air freeze against your skin. The rage that vibrates through the area burns ice-hot on your skin. You see Davesprite’s wings ruffle up uncomfortably--he can feel the complete bone-chilling anger.

“...Rose.” You whisper with worry.

Just as you utter her name, the dark clouds pull back slightly to reveal a certain Lalonde descending from the sky, a black aura rolling off of her body. Her eyes are blazing white as her gaze only focuses on one thing: The Castle.

“We gotta go now.” You say with haste.

Bro glances at you before nodding. The three of you rush through the air, closing in on the castle. You grip your battleaxe tighter within your grasp.

As you get closer, you wince when the first drop of black rain hits your shoulder. More raindrops fall from the sky and they’re all like freezing ice-shards on your skin. You’re almost to the castle and you see--

...You see the pools of blood--just like last time--and...two bodies lay within them. You swallow as you slow down in the air, hands starting to shake.

“Rose? What are you trying to show me?” You ask, voice chipper.

You’ve been following Rose through the Castle for a small handful of minutes. While her skin was grey, her eyes are glowing, and a black aura is rolling off of her body, you don’t feel very threatened. Rose was still Rose and--

Woah! It’s raining! You blink in confusion as you lift your gaze for a moment, watching as...black raindrops fall from the sky. The sky is covered in gray clouds and your stomach is starting to get this...churning feeling. Something wasn’t right…

You feel a small tug on your sleeve and you see Rose standing there, a solemn look on her face as her eyes continue to glow.

Fwj’sop mei.

She was still speaking in that weird language, but you follow her. She was your friend after all. With a nervous smile on your lips. You follow her around the outside of the Castle for a bit.

“Rose, is something wrong? Usually you’re--”

Your foot steps onto a puddle of something. You blink and lower your gaze.

Red.

You let out a gasp and step back quickly, making a footprint of red on the checkerboarded ground. You let out a shuddering breath as you look at the puddle.

“...Is...is that blood…?” You whisper harshly before whipping your head around to Rose, who’s standing behind you at the moment. “Rose, what--!?”

She only lowers her gaze to the ground, bitting her lower lip. That black aura around her snaps and crackles, swaying in the freezing breeze that went by. Slowly, she lifted a gray hand and pointed at something behind you. The sinking feeling is growing in your chest, gnawing at your lungs and pulling you deeper into a pit of dread.

Slowly, you turn around, ignoring the icy drops of black rain. You follow Rose’s finger and see…

...H-How could you not have seen it before…!?

Because you didn’t want to believe it.

You blink and numbly move forward. You think you step in another puddle of blood, but you barely mind it. You take stuttering steps forward. You weren’t shaking or crying--that was a surprise.

You blink again, slower this time because--this has to be a dream right? A nightmare?

Two bodies lie on the checkerboarded ground in the middle of mini-lakes of red, red blood. You never knew so much blood could come from one person--or rather two people; two people that you know.

Rose’s mom...f**k. She’s soaked in blood and the black rain is mixing with the red puddles. A broken bottle of wine lays nearby along with two martini glasses. Rose’s mom’s entire body is limp and sh**, sh**, sh**--! Rose...Rose must be feeling….!

You tear your gaze away and look at the other body--...

...O-Oh God, oh God, oh God, he’s not supposed to look like that. You’re amazed that you’re still able to stand--you can’t really feel anything; it’s so weird.

“...D-Dad…?” You step forward. The rain is biting. “Dad…? Pl-...Please…? Can you...hear me?”

You stand only feet from the dead body of your dad. You can’t go any closer because--...f**k, you can’t--you don’t know what to do. This can’t be happening right? Dad should be looking at you with his warm eyes, giving you cake, telling you how proud he was--

He didn’t deserve to be proud of you because right now he’s f**KING DEAD. You blink and tears slip past your cheeks, but no more follow. You hear a crackle of electricity and you lift your gaze. Rose walks forward to stand beside you, her black aura expanding.

You see some sort of dog-man stand before you, his wings are stretched out, almost blocking out the last of the light that can be seen past the dark clouds. You see Rose bring out her wands, her shoulders shaking with...rage. You only look at her briefly before pulling your Warhammer of Zillyhoo out of your Strife Deck. Judging by the blood on this guy’s hands...and that smirk on his lips…

You grit your teeth, rage boiling up in you. The Breath howls around you as you stand beside Rose. The dog-man peers at the two of you, ears flickering. He looks at Rose before resting his gaze on you, widening his smirk.

You prepare yourself for a fight, lifting your hammer as you take a step forwar--

...

...Your anger...fades and you...are suddenly feeling tired. So, so, so tired…

You blink, eyes fluttering and--wait, where had the dog-man gone? He was...in front of you before...wasn’t he…?

You hear something--just barely. Something is...screaming? It sounds pained and angered and--wait, wait…! Where’s Rose is she...alright…!? F**k it’s getting harder to think and you’re falling forward…

...Oh.

As you’re starting to fall, you now see that there’s something sticking out of your chest. A bloody, obsidian blade.

...F**k. No, no, no, no--f**k. You can’t--not like this. Rose is…! Rose is in so much pain right now! If you die here, then she’ll be all alone against this guy too! F**k, sh**...!

Rose’s mom…!

Your dad…

...

Why are you so f**king useless in stopping things from hurting your family and friends?

...Fingers thread through your left hand and grips it tightly. You barely feel the tear that trails down the side of your face as you turn your head to see red-orange eyes gazing at you. You inhale sharply as you feel a wing brush along your shoulders and Bal is doing his best murmuring words of comfort in you ear.

You blink before smiling shakily at Davesprite. You squeeze his taloned hand back carefully before releasing. Davesprite scans your face before nodding, pushing his shades up and readying his blade.

You return your gaze to the castle and ready your axe, gripping it with two hands. Your gaze zeroes in on Jack, who’s roaring up into the sky with a snarling grin. He seems to be preening himself over another victory...but you tear your gaze away from him and look at Rose.

==> John: Try to calm her down.

The wind howls as Grimdark-Rose’s feet touch the ground. You furrow your eyebrows and quickly dive down to land beside Rose. A small cloud of dust is kicked up.  You look over to Bal on your shoulder, gaze soft.

"Bal...go to the Castle and stay there." You see that he's about to protest, so you smile gently. "You aren't running away this time.  Stay at the castle and make Breath bubbles from afar.  Don't let Jack see you, okay?"

Bal looks at you with concern.  Slowly, he lets out a soft sigh, squeezing your shoulder gently with his claws before leaping off.  He lands on the ground with ease and skitters towards the castle, avoiding pools of black rain and...blood.

Once Bal is safe, you sigh and turn your attention to Rose.  You see the menacing aura rolling off of her body--she hasn't even realised that you're here--but you move forward, chest heavy as you finally rest a hand on her shoulder, left hand still leveling your axe up at the ready.

Rose’s aura burns your skin--not enough to actually leave burns, but it still hurts--but you ignore this, calling out softly to her as you squeeze her left shoulder gently.

“Rose.”

She whips her body around, shaking your hand off, a snarl on her lips--but her glowing, white eyes instantly recognizes who’s standing in front of her. She blinks and reaches a hand out towards you, eyes soft but still glowing. Her skin in a dark, murky gray, black lips barely standing out. She then stops herself from touching you, eyes scanning you quickly.

She furrows her eyebrows as she takes your appearance in. Perhaps she didn’t get to see you in your God Tier form until now. Her eyes lift back to your face, gaze searching. When she looks into your eyes, she--

Suddenly, she widens her eyes and her lips pull in a dark scowl. Rose brings out her wands and moves towards you, gaze looking a little desperate. You blink and hear a snarl behind yourself--

Klang!

Jack howls in rage when Davesprite comes in and stops him from reaching his prey. Bro summons his hands of Heart and yanks a snarling Jack back through the air. You turn around and give Davesprite and Bro a two-fingered salute in thanks while you turn back around to try and comfort Rose.

You see flashes of green, magenta, and orange reflect weakly off of the pools of black that are forming on the ground as you usher Rose away from the fight, storing your battleaxe away in your Strife Deck for now. Rose blinks in surprise and looks at you with wide eyes.

Wksjs akwi ywk dieno, Jounh?

You could somewhat understand what she had asked.

“I’m sorry, Rose. I...I-I understand your pain...” You swallow and look at her shakily. You plaster on an encouraging smile. “B-But…! I know a way we can bring them back, Rose!”

Rose blinks...and blinks again. The black aura around her flickers and she raises her eyebrows at you. She looks doubtful…

Bdkubg tgsf bogglk?” She mumbles.

“Yes, Rose.” You say with a comforting smile. “We can bring them back.”

You take her hand quickly walk with her to...the unmoving bodies of your dad and her mom. You blink back tears as you squeeze her hand, looking at her with gentle eyes before you carefully let go. You shut your eyes for a moment before blinking them open.

==> John: Search for the Quest Beds.

Your clothes ripple for a moment before lightening up to orange. The Breath symbol on your chest swirls before becoming the symbol of Light. Your eyes glow a bright yellow and the Light tattoo on your forehead shines brightly. Rose makes a noise of surprise behind you, but you ignore this at the moment, gaze searching.

Images flow past your eyes as you search, search and searc--aha! The Quest Beds were nearby! Your eyes stop glowing and a small grin tugs at your lips. Slowly, your clothes darken back to blue and the Breath symbol returns to your chest. Your tattoo stops glowing and you finally turn to look at a stunned Rose.

Briefly, you dart your gaze up to the fight. It relieves you when you see that Davesprite and Bro are handling it with ease. The Thief actually manages to land a solid kick into Jack’s gut, and Davesprite draws blood from a black wing. Bubbles of Breath also manage to distract Jack and catch him off guard; Bal changes his position so he doesn't get caught. You now lower your gaze back to Rose, a hand extending out towards the Grimdark teen. You smile gently at her, your buck teeth resting against your bottom lip slightly.

“C’mon, Rose. We’re bringing them back.”

She blinks, her white eyes wide before she takes your hand. Your clothes darken to black and the Space symbol switches with your Breath one. You back over to where Dad and Rose’s mom is.

In the pools of blood, you find a sprite-pendant, the SBURB loading symbol plastered on a small quarter-sized charm. You quickly reach out and take the necklace out of the blood, grimacing as you place it around your neck. Nanna must be somewhere nearby…...you’ll look for her later.

With a shaky hand, you then crouch down and place a hand on your dad’s unmoving chest while Rose takes her mom’s hand with her free one. You lift your gaze to Davesprite and Bro, calling out in a clear voice.

“We’ll be back!”

Davesprite and Bro don’t turn to acknowledge you in the air, but they both give you a thumbs up before charging at Jack, who roars at them in rage.  Bal salutes you from where he stand under a small formation of rocks made by some of the Castle rubble.

A green glows surrounds you, Rose, and your parents. In a flash, the scenery changes. Your arm tingles...but it doesn’t hurt as much. Probably using your extra Aspects too many times in a row injures you more. Spacing out the times you use the other Aspects will probably rip you apart less.

The sound of crashing surf reaches your ears and you stand up, glancing around quickly for any hostiles that may be nearby. You are currently on a white, sandy island in the middle of the waters of LOLAR.

Scanning the island you’re on, you note that there’s a white staircase that leads to somewhere. Your clothes lighten up to blue as you then turn your gaze to Rose, and anxious smile on your lips.

“Don’t worry, Rose. We’re almost there--”

You grunt and cough. You’re happy that your small ‘attacks’ are not happening during battle, but they’re still such nuisances to deal with. You cough out a glob of oil on the side, making sure it doesn’t splatter on Dad, Rose’s Mom, or Rose herself. Rose stands up in surprise, reaching out towards you as she lets go of her mother’s limp hand.

Jounh! Akwi ywk ao’ejdgt?” Her voice concerned.

You laugh sheepishly, wiping your mouth with the back of your hand, grimacing when some of the oil just smudges there.

“I’m fine, Rose! It’s just a small problem. It doesn’t hurt, really! It’s kinda similar to throwing up--” You flounder slightly at the unimpressed look you’re pinned with. “--er, actually...it’s like coughing up mucus or something…! I’m fine, really!”

Rose squints at you before slowly shaking her head, sighing.

Jounh…ywk akwi ajg idoene.

You puff your cheeks out at her, placing your hands on your hips in a childish way.

“Hey! I’m not an idiot!”

You hide a grin at the fond smile that darts across Rose’s face. You then put on a serious face as you raise you hands, looking towards the...bodies of your Dad and Rose’s mom. With a deep breath, you raise your hands and gently manipulate the Breath.

You carefully lift Dad and Mom-Lalonde off of the ground with Breath. You float up into the air with the bodies and look over at Rose. She gazes up at you for a moment before floating up beside you, darkness misting off of her form.

Wksjs akwi ywk dieno?

You float up, gaze raised as you follow the direction of the staircase.

“I’m gonna put their bodies on their Quest Beds, Rose.”

She makes a sound of surprise as she follows you up the pillar of white rock. Once at the top of the tower, you circle around the surface before landing. Your shoes lightly tap the top of the pillar of rock, and Rose lands beside you, head cocking at the...two stone slabs in front of the two of you.

You take a deep breath before moving your arms and set the bodies of your dad and Rose’s mom onto the two Quest Beds that were present. You gaze curiously at the sky-blue and dark-blue beds that are present.

Breath...and Void.

Slowly, you lower Dad onto the Quest Bed of Breath and Rose’s mom onto the Quest Bed of Void. You step back and quietly take Rose’s left hand with your right.

First...there was nothing...until--

You blink as the wind picks up and swirls around you. You see how loose pebbles roll along the ground and gravitate towards the two Quest Beds. Rose squeezes your hand tightly and watches with wide, glowing, white eyes.

Light begins to flood the area, a twilight-blue light mixing with a sky-blue one. Sparks of more light glows and surrounds the area for a moment...stretching towards the sky…...before it fades slowly. You quickly lift your gaze to the sky and see a sky-blue light glowing somewhere away from LOLAR. Maybe Dad or Rose’s mom was gonna wake up somewhere on Prospit or Derse?

The sound of rain lightly hits the surface of the pillar you’re standing on; well, it was the Land of Light and Rain after all. With a hopeful grin, you turn to look at Rose, squeezing her hand when it suddenly went a little limp in yours.

“Rose! Rose, I thi--....”

...Your eyes slowly widen.

...The sound you heard before wasn’t rain hitting the ground.

It was blood.

You’re suddenly taken back to those sand dunes, the cracked, black sky, and the thousands of burnt bodies littering the battlefield. But then, your gaze focuses back to the obsidian blade that was sticking through Rose’s chest.

“...R-Rose…?” You choke out.

Rose’s glowing eyes dim a little. She coughs, red blood dribbling past her lips as she gazes at you with worry--why can’t she worry about herself?--and she mouths your name in her gibberish language. Jack’s dog-head suddenly appears over Rose’s right shoulder, sneering at you as he bares his sharp teeth.

“It took a while to catch on to your sent, brat. You’re my first target, so I’ll get those Striders later.”

You barely hear him as Rose falls forward into your grasp, her eyes fluttering shut. Rose’s head lands against your chest, smearing blood onto the front of your God Tier shirt. You slowly fall to your knees, cradling her head close to your chest.

The Breath suddenly howls and swirls around you. Jack growls in surprise before he snarls when he’s thrown back. You set up a dome of Breath and distract Jack with tornados to veer out of the way of. You ignore him when he snarls threats and slurs at you as you bend over Rose, cupping her cheek so she can look at you properly with the last of her energy.

“R-Rose…!” She shudders for breath in your arms as you tear up, voice cracking slightly as you try to make her last moments a little more comfortable. “Shh, shh…! It’s...i-it’s gonna be fine. I-I--...!”

You swallow--d**n it! You’re the one who’s supposed to comfort Rose! Get a grip! You quickly shake your head and look down at her with shaky determination.

“...W-Wait for a green box on Derse with Dave. I’ll send you the Tumor by putting a captchalogue card in there. And don’t worry about the Scratch. I’ll complete it. I promise.”

Your hand is shaking on her cheek and--God you’re terrified. It reminds you so much of those times when you were such a failure! You couldn’t do anything ri--

Something warm touches your cheek. You blink and gasp softly in surprise as you gaze down into lavender eyes. The white light in Rose’s eyes fades and her irises have returned back to their original hue. Her skin still has blotches of gray on it, but she looks up at you with a comforting smile as she weakly brushes her hand against your cheek.

“...It...will b-be...alrig..ht...J-John.” She murmurs softly, her voice barely heard over the raging Breath and howling Jack. “...I...w-will wait...with D-Dave…”

Her hand slips from your cheek, but you catch it quickly with your hand that was previously cradling her cheek. Rose’s gaze is looking hazy, but does her best to look at you.

“...G-Good luck...John…”

You manage a shaky smile in return before she shuts her eyes. She goes completely limp in your eyes and--f**k, it shakes you to your core and more tears bubble out of your eyes and slide down your cheeks. With a shuddering breath, you quickly lean down and kiss her on the lips, knowing that her Dream-self would wake up on Derse.

You ignore the blood smudged on your lips as you then lift your gaze up, dispelling the Breath dome around you. You set Rose down on the ground carefully, giving one last, shaky smile at her.

“...Thanks, Rose.”

The Breath then swirls around you as you lift as sharp gaze towards Jack, who had apparently made it out of the mass of twisters you had created. You slowly stand up, not quite floating up to meet the Dersite in the air yet. Jack glares down at you before smirking.

“...Who was she? Your lover?”

You merely send a tired smile at him, throwing him off for a moment as he makes an irked expression at you.

“...She’s my therapist.” You finally murmur back as you pull the Reaper of Night out of your Strife Deck, shouldering the pitch-black blade. “The best one there is.”

Jack sneers, flapping his wings as the tornados die away. The sound of the water lapping up on the shore of the island reached both of your ears. Jack studies you for a moment, gaze narrowed before he smirks.

“You're alone now, brat. No friends to back you up.” He waves his bloodied blade around carelessly. “You’ll be dead by the time those Striders get here.”

You merely blink, lowering your sword from your shoulder as you keep your gaze on Jack.

“Perhaps I might be dead by the time they get here…” You agree softly--before your God Tier clothes darken to black, the symbol of Space replacing your Breath one. “...Or I’ll just do this.”

You slash to the side with your Reaper of Night and a tear appears in the air, the edges of the rip glowing green. Bro and Davesprite suddenly fly through the tear, blades raised at the ready. The two Striders look around for a moment in slight confusion, mildly surprised that they warped somewhere suddenly. Finally, their gazes focused on John and Jack instantly.

Davesprite quickly flies to John’s side, patting the other down for injures--before noticing the body of Rose. His wings arch up and he subconciously floats closer to John. One of his wings hover protectively over John while the other slumps with exhaustion.

...Oh f**k.” The sprite finally murmurs. “Sh**, Rose--

“She’s awake on Derse now.” You quietly try to soothe, shoulders tensing up slightly--you were afraid to get yelled out for not protecting Rose like an awesome God d**n friend you were supposed to be--! “I’m s-sorry I didn’t--”

Davesprite quickly cuffs you on the head, an angry chirp making its way out of his throat. You raise an eyebrow at the sound while Davesprite’s cheeks flush yellow with some embarrassment before he scowls at you.

Don’t say stupid sh**, dude! If you say Rose is fine, then she’s f**king fine.

You blink before rubbing the back of your head, nodding shakily. Davesprite ruffles your hair before turning around, blade raised at the ready. Bro drifts down, glancing at Rose with a grimace before looking at the Quest Beds with raised eyebrows.  The dead bodies were still there...

You send a worried look at Bro.

"Bal--?"

"Told the li'l guy to wait for us on Skaia. He looked close to sending a massive Breath bubble at me, but he finally relented and said he'll work on finding a good spot for you to dig out the Tumor."

The older Strider lands beside you, raising his gaze to Jack but directing his question to you.

“Did it work?”

You didn't need anything else to know what 'it' was.  You let out a sigh, looking up at the sky with searching eyes. The bright lights are gone...

“...There was a glow of light in the sky before…” you turn to look at Bro. “Did you see anything on Prospit?”

Bro hums thoughtfully.

“...I think I saw a flash of something when I was flying around with Dave to look for you, kid. Like I said before--if I came back, then those two will surely make it.”

You smile at this before pulling your Warhammer of Zillyhoo out of your Strife Deck. Your eyes glow blue as you drift off of the ground, gazing up at Jack. You take a deep breath before exhaling as Bro and Davesprite float beside you.

“Let’s meet up with them then,” You respond with a smile.

==> John: Be the Reader.

==> Reader: Watch the fight unfold.

John flew up, hammer swinging through the air. Jack warped out of the way of the blow, appearing above John, blade raised to stab the Heir unprotected bac--

Magenta strings attached themselves to Jack’s soul and yanked the Dersite away from John. Jack snarled as he was thrown to the side--where Davesprite was there to meet him. Sparks flew in the air as Davesprite’s blade met Jacks, the screeching of metal on metal unpleasant to everyone’s ears.

Jack broke off first, warping a distance away from the group, but a tug on his chest made him glance down and snarl--the Heart strings were still attached. Bro, left hand controlling the strings, flew up and leveled his katana with his right hand. The Thief yanked his left arm back, pulling Jack through the air towards him. Jack jerked forward and growled as the wind whipped across his face as he got closer to Bro.

With a strong flap of his wings, Jack managed to make the pull a stalemate, the Dersite and Bro staying where they were the air. Bro lifted an eyebrow before suddenly dispelling his strings, Jack roared in triumph before--

Thwack!

--John came from behind, his hammer making solid contact with the back of Jack’s head. Jack howled, body flailing in the air as he fell, black feathers trailing after him. John quickly inhaled as a rain cloud came by, cheeks puffing up.

He then let out a frigid exhale of Breath, freezing the rain as it fell, turning them into a shower of hail as it passed by Jack. Jack noticed the falling projectiles and snarled as he quickly flapped his wings, blood stickily dripping from the back of his head as he avoided the hail. Jack then warped out of the way, keeping his gaze on John and Bro--wait, where was--?

Caw, caw, motherf**ker.

Jack grunted in surprise and jerked to the side--but his right wing wasn’t as lucky. An orange blade stabbed right through the wing from behind. Jack growled murderously as he glanced over his shoulder to see Davesprite smirking at him. With a bark, Jack warped away, flying high up into the sky so he could see all of his opponents.

Davesprite flew down to float beside John while Bro came by and drifted at the Heir’s right. The trio kept their gazes on Jack as he floated above them.

He hissed as blood trickled from his wing and the back of his head. These brats weren’t supposed to be giving him trouble! They were supposed to fall like the dead flies they were. Jack gnashed his teeth as he sheathed his sword in his chest, raising his hand into the air.

He’ll pick them off one by one.

Red light pulsed around Jack’s hand as he growled lowly. He felt the power of the ring build up, climb high--before he threw his hand forward, sending the Red Miles down upon his opponents.

John narrowed his gaze as Red Miles darted down towards them. The Heir brought out Eye of Tempesta as his clothes darkened to red, the Time symbol replacing his Breath one. He leveled his rifle up at the air and fired off five shots, copper light streaking through the sky. Once the bullets made contact with the Red Miles, only a handful of branches were caught--the sound of ticking reached John’s ears as he stored Eye of Tempesta away.

“Avoid and watch your back!” John shouted as he flew back, pulling his Warhammer of Zillyhoo out again, his clothes lightening up to blue once more.

The Striders didn’t say anything, but they nodded their heads and dart out of the way of the rest of the Red Miles that fall from the sky. John then flicked his left hand out while he held his hammer with his right hand, summoning multiple tornados.

They twisted with the waters of LOLAR and the rain clouds, making one massive hurricane. John’s eyes glowed brightly as the hurricane expanded, the violent wind starting to yank Jack off balance in the air. Jack gritted his teeth as he flew against the new air currents before darting his gaze to the separated Striders.

He grinned darkly as green sparks traveled along his body. He warped behind Davesprite, obsidian blade glinting in the dim lighting. He lunged forward, stabbing--

Davesprite whirled around, avoiding Jack’s attack, orange blade thrusting forward into Jack’s chest. Jack widened his eyes, gazing at Davesprite with shock.

Davesprite smirked…...before it faded quickly, eyes widening behind his shades. Jack slowly regained his smug look, enjoying the surprise that was appearing on the sprite’s face.

Jack’s form was flickering green as he sneered at the sprite, Davesprite’s blade sticking harmlessly through his chest. Davesprite pulled back quickly and stared at the red blood staining his sword--

F**k--!” A deep voice gritted out a few meters away.

Davesprite whipped his head around and saw Bro grasping his right shoulder--he was still holding on to his sword with his right hand. Blood was slipping past the fingers of his left hand--the same blood that was on the sprite’s sword. An image of Jack was slightly flickering behind Bro before it completely disappeared in a crackle of green sparks. Davesprite’s gut dropped as he put two and two together. He had hurt Bro…!

Bro--!” He shouted with horror barely hidden in his voice. F**k, f**k, f**k…! He was supposed to protect his family! Not--!

“Don’t f**kin’ worry about me, Dave!” The Thief cut the other off, Texan accent bleeding back into his voice. “...And that was a sh**ty stab!” Bro threw a smirk at him. “Didn’t I teach ya’ better?”

Davesprite sucked in a sharp breath at that before sending a shaky smirk back. F**king typical Bro. He was a tough sh**. Davesprite whipped his head around, turning his attention back to Jack--

Jack Noir was gone.

Davespriet widened his eyes and snapped his head back to Bro. The sprite was about to fly forward, but a branch of Red Miles shot down in front of him, forcing him to back up hastily.

Bro!” He barked out.

The Thief blinked at the warning and quickly jerked to the right, dodging the obsidian blade that would’ve stabbed him through the back. Bro spun around and raised an eyebrow at Jack, sword leveled at the Dersite--f**k, his right arm is barely holding onto his weapon...

“John wasn’t kiddin’ when ya’ liked ta’ stab people in the back.” Bro’s body glowed magenta slightly as hands of Heart appeared in the air beside him. “Pretty cowardly of ya’, don’t ya’ think?”

Jack scoffed, raising his sword at Bro as branches of Red Miles fell around them.

“Just shut your f**king mouth, Strider.”

Bro merely smirked--God d**n, his right arm hurt like a b***h; he can’t really feel it anymore--and tossed his katana into his left hand, shifting his stance in the air. The skeleton-like hands of Heart shot forward--Jack dodged a punch that was aimed to his stomach before launching himself at Bro. The Thief grunted and darted back through the air, avoiding the swipe of Jack’s obsidian blade.

Suddenly, John came down from the sky, eyes blazing sapphire as he brought his hammer down on Jack’s open back. Jack blinked when he noticed the ravenet, snarling as he quickly twisted out of the way. John’s hammer hit the air, creating a small shockwave with how hard he swung--but he still missed.

John’s eyes made contact with Jack’s. The Dersite snarled at the Heir, quickly readjusting his grip on his blade and aiming for John’s neck, flapping his wings to reposition himself in midair.

John’s body is misting, turning into wind by the time Jack sliced through his body. Jack made a noise of confusion as he passed through John’s body. The Heir reappeared beside Bro, checking the adult over with wide eyes.

“Bro, that was a close call!” The Heir grimaced at the blood that dripped down the Strider’s arm. “How bad is it...?”

“I can’t really feel it.” Bro replied bluntly. “I think the nerves in my right shoulder have been sliced through.”

John frowned at this before perking up with an idea. He stored his hammer into his Strife Deck before he reached into his captchalogue deck and brought out...a plate of Nanna’s cookies. Bro raised an eyebrow at the glowing cookies.

“John, kid, we are in the middle of a gog d**n figh--”

“Nanna made these cookies with her sprite powers. They have healing properties.” John quickly explained, shoving a cookie into Bro’s face with his right hand while he balanced the platter on his left hand.

Bro leaned back slightly in surprise before taking the cookie between his teeth. He gave John a nod of thanks, handing his sword to one of his Heart hands, using his left hand to help him finish up the cookie and take the plate. John grinned before whipping his body around, snapping his hands out.

He created a barrier of Breath in time to block a slash from Jack. Jack glared at John and the Heir narrowed his gaze back at the other. Bringing out the Hammer of Enlil, he swung his weapon upward, pulling the trigger on the hilt at the same time.

Bang!

Sparks flew as the silver-blue gun-hammer clashed with Jack’s blade, forcing the Dersite back. John darted forward as the Red Miles broke and fell apart around them, falling from the sky like crimson shards of glass. Davesprite dived in behind Jack, sword raised.

Jack growled and his body became slightly transparent with green light. Davesprite quickly noticed the change and pulled back, gritting his teeth--he wouldn’t want his sword to end up hurting his best bro or Bro again, thank you very much.

Jack laughed darkly as he spun around, having expected Davesprite to pull back. Jack flew up, sword rushing towards the orange sprite, who was flapping his wings to back up hastily. The Dersite’s blade was about to stab Davesprite in the ches--

Magenta strings yanked Jack back.

Jack howled in rage and frustration, looking down at the strings attached to his chest before looking behind himself to see Bro, who was finishing up one last cookie. Bro glared up at Jack, eyebrows furrowed as he held the cookie plate with his left hand, using a Heart hand--the strings were attached to it--to keep the Dersite away from Davesprite.

B***h. I wasn’t done eatin’ my cookies.” He said with a slightly muffled voice. He then swallows, coughing slightly as he tossed the empty platter to the side carelessly. “Okay,” The stab wound in his right shoulder finished stitching itself up with a blue glow; his sleeve is still a little wrecked though. “Now I’m ready.”

Jack widened his eyes before he was thrown harshly to the waters below. He hit the water, creating a massive splash. The Dersite was stunned for a moment, simply gazing up as he watched bubbles of air escape his mouth and float to the surface of the waters.

...This…

...This...this wasn’t suppoSED TO F**KING HAPPEN!

Bubbles burst from his mouth as he snarled soundlessly in the ocean. Rage filled him, consuming his rational thoughts for a moment. His wings stretched out as he clawed the water, screaming profanities to nothing.

‘THESE F**KING PIECES OF SH**!’ Jack roared in his head before he burst out of the water, sparks of green rolling of his body. He sheathed his sword in his chest.

He could only think of blue.

Jack’s wings spread out as he shot upward from the sea, shaking the water off. Bro blinked in mild surprise and waved his hand around to yank the Dersite back--but Jack ignored the throbbing in his chest as he pulled against the strings of Heart, clawed hand snapping out blindly for a moment before clasping onto a pale-skinned throat.

“IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!” He howled as he squeezed John’s neck.

John wheezed as his air was cut off. Jack suddenly warped away with John in his grasp--the length of the Heart strings were stretched to its limits and they snapped. Jack sneered at this, floating in the air as he kept his grasp on John’s neck. The two were currently far away from LOLAR at the moment, floating in the empty space between planets.

“Should’ve done this f**king earlier…!” Jack muttered irritatedly to himself.

He then noticed John’s body starting to turn into wind--

He squeezed John’s neck and smiled darkly at the Heir, wings spread out as his white eyes curved up humorlessly.

“Make any move to escape and I’ll start going after your other friends.”

John wheezed and stopped turning into wind. He became a solid form and lifted a shaky hand to grasp at Jack’s tightening grip. Jack sighed gruffly, looking into John’s blue eyes, sharp teeth bared. F**king brat…!

He paused...staring into those blue eyes.  And then...Jack began to speak.

“...At first...it was just the Black Queen. The f**king b***h! But then...I gutted her easily; I slashed through all of those Prospitians and Dersites.” His gaze narrowed. “And then it was that f**king Strider! While he did give me a hard time at first, I ran him through with his own sword--but YOU!”

Jack tightened his grip on John’s throat, wings spread as the Heir coughed.

“...You…! You...seem to know my every move. You’ve gotten in my way so many f**king times. You’re bringing my kills back from the f**king dead!” Green sparks rolled off of his body as he shook John by the throat. “Who. The f**k. ARE YOU!?”

John choked out a breath, hand on Jack’s own. The Heir fumbled for a moment, fingers scrabbling along Jack’s own. Knowing that he couldn’t escape, John’s scrabbling was only something that was attempting to loosen Jack’s grip. Jack noticed this and sneered before loosening his grip slightly.

“Well? F**king speak, brat!  Who the f**king he** are you?”

John gasped as some air managed to get into his lungs. He coughed before he managed to drag his gaze up to focus on Jack. Slowly…...John smiled, looking up into Jack’s eyes.

“...I...I’m just a k-kid from Washington.” He managed to get out, blue eyes glowing. “I’m a-an awe..some...pranks..ter…!”

Jack sneered at this, tightening his grip. John blinked as black spots began to crowd his vision, a little concerned that his neck made a small popping noise--oh boy, his neck must be close to snapping like a thin twig under Jack’s fingers.

“...That’s not what I wanted to know, you little sh**! F**k, you tryin’ to stall so those d**n Striders get here!?”

John coughed, gaze drifting for a moment before settling on Jack again. The Breath swirled around John’s hands, but it didn’t move into any offensive form. Jack scoffed, shaking the teen in his grasp slightly.

“F**king, smug little sh**! You’re laughing at me, aren’t you? You think you’re so much more powerful than me--is that it!?” He snarled in John’s face, sharp teeth barely nipping the Heir’s nose. “F**KING ANSWER THE D**N QUESTION! WHO ARE YOU!?”

John shut his eyes, focusing on his breathing as much as he could before opening his eyes. Slowly, he gazed into white eyes and saw...something. There was...something within those eyes that made John forget about breathing for a split second.

John blinked sluggishly...the lack of oxygen getting to him. The Heir took weak, rapid breaths before...sending a wobbly smile at the Dersite.

“...I...f-feel...k-kinda bad for you...ac..tually….”

Jack stiffened in surprise, loosening his grip around John’s neck for a brief moment in surprise before tightening it again. His white eyes narrowed into slits as he glared at John.

“What nonsense are you spouting, brat!?”

John struggled for breath as he hung uselessly in the air.

“...For a long...t-time...you’ve b-been...under y-your Queen’s reign.” Jack’s eye twitched, but John pressed on. “...And y...you were a-always push..ed around….and..yo..u...f-followed her every o-order.”

John coughed again, his throat feeling sore and his voice becoming rough with the lack of oxygen. But he continued, he forced himself to keep talking.

“Th-Then you got...the ring. But th-the power you now h-have...has made you...drunk. You...c-can’t think clearly...about your own goals. B-But…! That’s...n-not why I’m feeling b-bad...for you.” John tightened his fingers over Jack’s hand before letting go, letting his body go limp as he gazed into white eyes. “...I-It’s because…”

John was able to suck in a mouthful of air when Jack’s grip was slowly slackening.

“...N-No one...has..ev..er showed y-you...kindness bef-before, i-isn’t that right….?”

Jack blinked, eyes slowly widening. His wings shuddered and fluffed up...before his eyes narrowed and he tightened his grip around John’s neck.

“Shut up…! Shut up, shut up, shUT UP, SHUT THE F**K UP, YOU LITTLE SH**!” He howled, green sparks rolling off of his body. “DON’T F**KING PITY ME!”

John shut his eyes as he was shaken violently by the throat. He felt a headache coming on from the lack of air. However...what Jack had just said...only confirmed John’s thoughts.

...

...Huh...even bad guys had sad backstories, didn’t they?

Jack was so close to snapping John’s neck and ending the teens life. Just one small squeeze--

“Unhand my son, Demon.”

Jack only had time to blink before he was clobbered to the side by a fist to his head. John coughed as air suddenly rushed into his lungs. The Heir’s body hunched over as he tried to calm his breathing--and then someone wrapped their arms around him and cradled him close. John blinked, wheezing before he inhaled--...

...He inhaled the unique scent of tobacco, cologne, and shaving cream. John blinked, tears immediately springing into his eyes as his vision began to focus. Carefully, he shifted his body so he could lift his head to see who exactly was holding him.

One hand of his savior left John’s back to gently pat the Heir’s head as a baritone voice murmured softly to the ravenet. The remaining hand on John’s back finally moved to the Heir’s face, moving the glasses up to rub the tears away with a thumb.

“Son…?! Son, just breathe. I’m here…!”

John blinked as he gazed up into bright, cobalt eyes. His fedora was missing, was John’s first thought as he took in the adult’s appearance, the wavy, raven hair brushed back neatly on his savior’s head.

John leaned back slightly in the other’s semi-hold to take in the sky-blue clothes his savior was wearing. The symbol of Breath was shown proudly on the adults chest. His darker-blue cape drifted in the nonexistent air.

...

A Knight of Breath.

...But not just any Knight of Breath.

John lifted his gaze back to the cobalt eyes, taking in a shuddering breath. The Heir blinked--and the other is still floating before him. He wasn’t some simple dream. He. Was. Still. There.

“......Dad…” He finally whispered, voice raw.

James Egbert blinked his eyes rapidly before giving John a crooked smile, bending down slightly to place his forehead against his son’s. He chuckled softly, his breath smelling a little like smoke and cake.

“...Hello, son.” He murmured, cobalt eyes watering slightly.

And John--John laughed and sobbed at the same time, flinging his arms around the elder’s neck. Dad frantically patted his head in return as he held John close with one arm, shushing his son softly. The Heir continued to sob into the Dad’s chest as he continued to comfort and--oh God he’s alive, breathing, and...and…! He’s f**king alright!

“It’s alright, it’s alright…! I’m here, Son. I’m here…” He murmured as he held John close, a small laugh also bubbling out of his mouth. “I’m here--”

“F**KING B*****D!” Jack roared. Having regained his bearings, the Dersite was pissed off. The f**king fedora-b*****d was back!

James blinked, shoulders tensing as he held John close to his chest. The adult lifted his gaze to see Jack seething a distance away, blood dribbling down the Dersite’s jaw. Dad carefully moved John behind himself, ignoring the teen’s protests.

“...You will not touch him ever again.” James murmured, but his words carried across the distance. His deep voice was harsh and biting, but it managed to keep a calm tone. “I will not hesitate to beat you to a bloody God d**n pulp, Dersite.”

Jack sneered at this, a growl rumbling lowly in his throat. He inclined his head at James, scanning the other. The Dersite chuckled, amused by the Egbert patriarch’s words.

“...A bold claim.” He drew his sword from his chest, leveling at the two gods of Breath. “But fine--I’ll go through you first before I get your kid. I’ll mutilate his scrawny body beyond recognition once I’m done with you!”

Jack laughed harshly as he flew forward. Oh, he couldn’t wait to see the kid’s face twist into despair like those other times--

“...N-No one...has..ev..er showed y-you...kindness bef-before, i-isn’t that right….?”

Jack’s ears twitched and he faltered through the air for a moment...before he mentally shook his head, snarling as he shot forward. F**king kid doesn’t know the sh** he’s spouting!

“DIE YOU F**KERS--!”

“You ain’t hurting Jamie and Jamie Jr., you Chernabog-Wannabe~!” A smooth voice sang.

Jack blinked before some sort of twilight-blue circle appeared before him. He couldn’t stop himself before he went through the circle--no, the portal. Jack blinked as he found himself in a slightly different part of the empty space. He whirled around and checked his surroundings--

Hiya, Doggie~!” The new voice said again.

He turned around in time to get a palm slamming into his face. Jack growled as he quickly backed up, sword leveling at the newcomer. He blinked before slowly widening his eyes in recognition. The Dersite growled lowly as he gazed back at the newcomer.

“You...b***h…!”

One Roxanne Lalonde giggled softly as she held a hand up, Void dancing along her fingertips--like blue flames. Her eyes went from hot-pink to twilight as she gazed at Jack, her clothes rippling in the air.

John blinked as he moved to float beside Dad instead of stand behind him. The Heir gazed at the back of Mom-Lalonde, blue eyes wide. He scanned her outfit--a dark hood, a small cape, long, dark-brown boots--and found that she was...

...A Mage of Void.

Roxanne Lalonde hummed softly...before her smile slipped off of her face as she gazed coolly at Jack. Her teasing and drunken tone was disappearing rapidly.

“You better run along, now. I know how Aspects work, buddy. And I think Void and Space are preeeetty evenly matched.”

Jack snarled, shoulders hunched as he look at her. His gaze darted to James...before landing back on John. The Dersite looked like he was ready, rearing up for a fight even though there was now a person who could warp freely against him. Jack growled lowly as he kept his gaze on John, obsidian sword raising to level it at the Heir--

...Why the f**k was his hand starting to shake!?

Jack narrowed his gaze at the minute shake in his hand as he aimed his sword at John. John noticed this too--even though he was floating a small distance away--and widened his eyes in surprise. The Dersite scowled, glaring at John with rage.

“What did you do to m--!?”

Jack blinked and spun around in time to block a blow from a blade. Sparks were made as metal scraped along metal. The Dersite frowned as he gazed up into orange shades. Davesprite’s lips were pressed in a tight line, but there was a slightly relieved slouch in his shoulders--probably because he saw that James and Roxanne were now alive, and John was safe.

“Oh-ho~James and Rox,” Bro flew in on his rocket-board, screeching to a halt when he was at a reasonable distance by the group. “You guys look like f**king bada**es.”

Jack snarled as he warped a small distance away so he could take in the whole entire group. 5 against 1 was not good. Jack could possibly warp them away one by one...but…

His white eyes made contact with blue before he scowled. For some reason, the thought of...hurting these people left...a bad taste in his mouth. Everytime he simply thought, he would see blue, sad, and lost eyes.

...F**king blue eyes…!

...Jack gnashed his teeth before sending a glare at the entire group.

“I’ll get you all later, you f**king sh**s!” He hissed.

He had to sort his thoughts out.

With that, Jack warped away, leaving the group of five alone. Bro captchalogged his rocket-board and huffed as he drifted in the air with them. Before he could speak, Roxanne swooped in, laughing with a slightly drunken lilt in her voice as she threw an arm each around Bro’s neck and James’s neck, bringing the two adults in for one big group hug; Davesprite and John drifted on the side, smiling amusedly.

“I’m. So. Happy. To. See. You. Twoooooo!” The Mage squealed as she then spun around in the air with the two still in her arms. “AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

Bro rolled his eyes beneath his shades, back slightly bent since he was taller than Rox. James frantically patted the arm around his neck, a fond smile on his lips even though his face grew red with the lack of oxygen.

“Air, dear Roxanne.” His cobalt eyes gazed up pleadingly into hot-pink ones. “I may be a god of Breath, but I still need my throat to breathe.”

The Mage pouted at James before she rolled her eyes in response, releasing the two. She placed her hands on her hips, giving a playfully irritated look at the two.

“You guys are just sissies!” She crowed.

Bro merely flipped her the finger while James scolded the Thief; the Knight of Breath then sent a sheepish smile to Rox after that. With one last huff, Rox then turned her gaze to John and Davesprite, closing the distance before leaning down slightly to pinch the Heir’s cheeks. Davesprite snorted at this, but the Mage ignored this for now, her attention on John.

“Aw, hello, John! You’re so adorable!” The Lalonde matriarch cooed. “Just like your father~

James made a strangled, embarrassed noise in the back while Bro chuckled and pat the Egbert patriarch on the back. Rox glanced over her shoulder to wink teasingly at James before looking back at John, a small smile on her black lips. The Heir merely smiled, laughing sheepishly as he raised his hands up to hover over hers.

“Gotta get my handsome looks from somewhere, hehe.”

And Rox...Rox...paused at that. She had expected John to whine with annoyance or swat her pinching hands away from his abused cheeks. She inclined her head and released John’s cheeks, cupping them instead with her thin fingers. John froze under the gentle hands and lifted an eyebrow at Rox, smiling nervously, dropping his hands to his sides.

Rox blinked as she gazed into blue eyes…

...

Wariness.

Loneliness.

So much pain...

His eyes held things a teen like him should not have. Rox frowned before she suddenly hugged John, wrapping her arms around him. John squeaked in surprise, arms flailing, but the Mage didn’t let go.

“U-Uh--...!”

“Just call me Mom, dear.” Rox murmured softly before grinning down at John when his head popped up to look at her. Her grin widened before she ruffled John’s hair, cooing at the shy blush that appeared on the ravenet’s face. “I believe your father will propose to me in the future~

James was now burying his beat-red face into his hands, making another sound of strangled embarrassment while Bro was sharing a look with Davesprite; the sprite merely raised his eyebrows and shrugged--Bro huffed out a soft chuckle, enjoying his friend’s predicament. John too laughed softly at this, thoughts drifting for a moment. His smile faded slightly and his blue eyes clouded slightly with memories.

‘That’s right...Dad and Rose’s mom were starting to like each other befo--’

John felt a hand gently run through his hair before his thoughts could go somewhere dark and depressing. Rox released John from her hug and looked at the ravenet with soft eyes, holding him by the shoulders.

“...Hmmmm...it seems that we have a lot to talk about, Jamie Jr.”

John blinked at the nickname before straightening his back up at ‘talk’. Davesprite was quick to float closer beside the Heir at that, placing a taloned hand onto the ravenet’s shoulder. John was able to steady himself with Davesprite’s hand, grounding himself. John sighed softly, his throat still a little sore. He bit his lip and looked at the ground--or rather, the empty space below him.

Should he tell them? Would it be alright? Would they be mad at him? What if they…?

John lifted his gaze to peer over Rox’s shoulder, hands shaking slightly. He made eye-contact with Bro, who had slipped his shades down slightly to show the Heir that he had the Thief’s full attention.

While James watched with mild confusion, Bro nodded his head slightly in encouragement, a smile briefly darting across his lips. John smiled weakly at this before looking up at Rox, hands a little less shaky now.

“Let’s...head back to Skaia first before we talk.”

Rox squinted her eyes slightly, lips pursing--and John’s weary mind laughed because that’s what Rose always does when she’s thinking hard about something. The Mage crossed her arms and hummed, floating as she bent down to look into John’s blue eyes. Finally, her gaze softened and she moved one of her hand to pat his head before looking over at James.

“Jamie~our son is adorable!”

James nodded...before blushing, her words catching up to him. Bro rolled his gaze up to the sky--or empty space above--and sighed. James can be such a gentleman, but he becomes a floundering mess when it comes to cute sappy sh**.

“‘O-Our’...!?” Dad stuttered before smoothing his expression over, drifting over to float in front of John. his love for his son beat his embarrassment into submission. “...Is...everything alright, son?”

John sighed, scratching the back of his head. What to say to that question? He already feels exhausted with the fact that he’d probably have to go over his story again. He couldn’t exactly tell his friends yet, but Dad and Mom needed to know since Bro knows already.

Bro and I can talk about your...situation for you, dude.

John blinked and turned to look at Davesprite. The sprite was looking at the Heir with a small smile, eyebrows furrowed with concern for the other. His wings spread out, brushing John’s shoulder gently. The Heir visibly relaxed--Davesprite’s wings were like toasty, calming blankets...

We can explain everything to them while you get the Tumor out of Skaia.” Davesprite held out a fist for John. “Less stressful for you, ya’ know?

John blinked, eyes burning a little before he sucked in a breath. He sent a watery, thankful smile at Davesprite before returning the fist-bump.

“Thanks, man. And, uh,” John lifted an eyebrow at the sprite. “How did you guys know to go here in the middle of space?”

Davesprite fluffed his wings up for a moment before he pointed at Bro, who pointed at his own eyes behind his shades. A magenta glow surrounded the Thief for a moment.

“I could see your blue soul and Jack’s green one from LOLAR.” The Thief shrugged. “It’s part of my powers as a Thief of Heart.”

John nodded, glancing at his chest thoughtfully before darkening his clothes to black, the Breath symbol chang--

Nope, dude, stop.” Davesprite swatted John in the back, eyebrows raised as he looked at the Heir with a small frown on his lips. “We have a Void-user now. Don’t do anymore of your Space stuff for today. You’ll f**k up your arm further.

“Is that why it’s bandaged?” James cut in softly, staring at the white bandages wrapped around John’s left arm. The Knight of Breath’s face was scrunched up with worry. “Son...why are you able to use multiple Aspects--?”

“James,” Bro stopped the Egbert patriarch from asking anymore questions. “I’ll explain for your kid with Dave when we get to Skaia.” The Thief then turned to look at the Mage of Void. “Rox, could you…?”

Rox nodded--she eyed John with concerned eyes for a moment--and waved her hands through the air before making a circle with her hands, creating a portal of Void. She floated to the side, allowing the others to go before her. Bro nodded his thanks to Rox before flying through the portal. Davesprite ruffled John’s hair before following Bro.

James looked at his son’s bandaged arm with worried eyes. He had seen it before, but Jack was still present before, so he didn’t have to ask. But...oh...his son was injured. That made his heart clench with pain. Some father he was--

Dad.” John called out to the other softly, cutting through the man’s thoughts. The Heir smiled awkwardly at his dad. “...Everything’ll be explained, okay? And don’t blame yourself for me getting injured.”

James blinked in surprise...before slowly nodding, a weary smile on his lips. The Knight of Breath moved forward and draped an arm over his son’s shoulders. Together, the two stepped into the portal. Rox watched them go with a soft smile before she glanced around, checking to see if there were any enemies around. Once there was no one following them or anything, she stepped through the Void portal and closed it behind herself.

==> Reader: Be Rose before she went Grimdark.

Chapter Text

==> Reader: Be Rose before she went Grimdark.

You are now Rose.

Right now you are flying through the air on the planet LOLAR. How are you able to do this without being in God Tier? Magic. Duh.

You are drifting towards an island you have recently brought up out of the ocean with your wands. While investigating the massive, pink rock you have brought up into the air, you are once again being trolled by Kanaya.

You believe that this Kanaya is of the past. Compared to the Kanaya in your very first conversation with the troll, this Kanaya that’s trolling you is a bit more stiff--but you have enjoyed every conversation with her. You can see how you would come to like this troll--perhaps a meeting face to face would seal the deal, but for now, you will have to settle for texting.

==> Rose: Answer troll.

You turn your hubtopband on, the green screen flickering to life over your right eye. You drift in the air, watching waterfalls fall off of the island you’re lifting out of the sea with your magic.

-- grimAuxiliatrix [ GA ] began trolling tentacleTherapist [ TT ] at 8:45 --

GA: I See That You’ve Brought An Entire Island Out Of The Sea.

TT: That is correct.

GA: And This Is...Part Of Your Investigation?

TT: A little. While I am investigating the many mysteries of this game, I am also gathering information for the Scratch.

You land on a white cliff that was nearby, lifting your wands up as you eye the massive island of pink rock--it’s as tall as a skyscraper. Waves splash against the cliff you are on, but you ignore this for now, focusing your energy on the island. With a flick of your wrists, the magic from your wands start to crack the island like an egg.

GA: These Investigations Of Yours...

TT: Yes?

GA: I’m Not Sure How To Say This In The Most Gentle Way Possible.

TT: It’s okay to be blunt with me. I can handle it.

This pink rock is slowly being removed, leaving some sort of green core in the middle. Raising an eyebrow, you decided to float closer to the island. With magic, you float off of the cliff you are standing on and fly over to the island.

GA: Okay. If You Say That It Is Alright, Then I Guess I’ll Just Say It.

GA: You Are Being Very...Reckless. It Worries Me.

You smile at this as you drift right before the island. You move both wands into one hand as you use your free hand to brush the surface of the green core you found underneath all of the pink rock.

TT: I appreciate your concern, but you do not have to worry about me.

GA: You Must Understand Rose That Something Is Going To Happen To You!

TT: What will happen?

GA: I...

GA: ...

GA: I’m Not Sure Actually.

You brush your fingers across the cool surface of the green stone. You blink as you notice that there’s something carved on it. Humming softly, you float back a bit.

GA: It’s Just...There’s This Point In Your Timeline Where It’s Completely...

TT: “Completely”...?

GA: Black.

GA: It’s A Blackout

You incline your head at this, gazing at the jade-colored words on your screen before sighing softly. You drift back as you observe the green stone before you. The carving on it looks like a massive circle of some sort.

TT: So you cannot see anything beyond this...”blackout”?

GA: I Cannot. And This Worries Me, Rose.

TT: ...

TT: Then perhaps this is something that I cannot change.

TT: I do not think anything I do now can change my fate towards this “blackout”. But I am grateful for your concern.

You notice something near the bottom of the giant carving--words. You squint at the words, mouthing them to yourself for a moment.

TT: Let us talk about something else instead.

TT: Do you know something about the Green Sun?

GA: While I Dislike The Fact That You Show Little To No Care For Your Wellbeing, I Know A Small Fact About The Green Sun.

GA: I Have Been Told That The Green Sun Is Like An Energy Source For A Very Powerful Being, Or Beings.

GA: What Kind Of Being? I Do Not Know. But The Green Sun Is A Very Large Source Of Energy.

TT: Thank you for the information.

TT: Hmm...

You back away from the island, a wand now in each hand. With a wave of your hands, the island sinks back into the sea with a shuddering rumble. Large waves move away from the island now that it is back in place.

You drift in the air for a moment, scanning the area before lifting your gaze skyward. Perhaps it’s time you head to LOHAC and find the device that you need to initiate the Scratch.

TT: Once again, Kanaya, I am thankful for your concern, but this “blackout” will probably happen regardless of what I do now.

TT: Maybe nothing bad will happen to me in the “blackout”, and we can instead meet face to face.

TT: I would enjoy a cup of tea and discuss clothes designs with you. How does that sound?

There’s a long pause. You wait patiently as you fly up, breaking through LOLAR’s atmosphere. After drifting past a few planets, Kanaya responds.

GA: That Would Be Lovely, Rose.

GA: I Truly Hope That We Can Meet Face To Face After The Blackout.

GA: Do Stay Safe Then.

TT: Of course. And I would say the same to you. Stay safe, Kanaya.

GA: Farewell.

TT: Goodbye.

-- grimAuxiliatrix [ GA ] ceased trolling tentacleTherapist [ TT ] at 9:05 --

~~

You are now sitting on an island on LOHAC, the Beat Mesa floating just nearby. Your hubtop is open up in front of you, your screen lighting up every time your strange informant speaks to you.

You had been sceptical before about your...informant. He had come out of nowhere and started to help you on your mission with completing the Scratch. You are not sure what to make of him...but he has been helping you. Still, you aren’t completely letting your guard down.

At least you know that the material needed to scratch the surface of Beat Mesa were the quills of Jade’s Denizen, Echidna. Jade had pestered you earlier saying that she had talked to her Denizen after lighting the Forge. Getting the quills is still a work in process the last time you had pestered her. With a sigh, you turn your attention back to your hubtop.

==> Rose: Speak with your informant.

--               began pestering tentacleTerapist [ TT ] at ??:?? --

TT: You have told me that destroying the Green Sun with the Tumor will then get rid of our new adversary Jack Noir?

That is correct. The Green Sun is Jack Noir’s power source. But it is also my own. Destroying the Green Sun will end up killing Jack Noir and I.

You furrow your eyebrows at this, lifting your gaze to glance up at Beat Mesa. You watch as it floats in the hot air, gears below it clanging softly. With a sigh, you lower your gaze back to your hubtop.

TT: I still don’t understand why you wish to die. After a few conversations with you, you do not seem to be the suicidal type. It had struck me rather odd.

I have told you before that it is necessary for my Master to return.

TT: That is also something you haven’t explained to me. Who is your Master?

TT: If he is your master, he must be quite the powerful being since you are already “omniscient” and “extremely powerful”.

I cannot answer your inquiry, but you are indeed correct. My Master is a very powerful being. Much more powerful than I am.

You purse your lips together as you highlight the new, white words.

TT: Hmm...what is his name?

I won’t tell you his real name.

But he goes by the title, Lord English.

You incline your head at the name. For some reason...it feels like you’ve heard the name before. With a small shake of your head, you continue your conversation with your informant.

TT: Lord English?

TT: Sounds like a rather arrogant name.

Hmm. So it would seem.

Oh my.

TT: What is it?

Well, at first, one of my guests had set my place on fire.

Now there is a nice, young gentleman who has put out the fire with his Breath.

My, I have been waiting to have a conversation with him for a long time ever since the game had begun. A nice cup of tea with him would be nice.

A gentleman that can use Breath? You lift an eyebrow at this, fingers about to move to ask--

But the conversation shall wait. For now, I must finish my conversation with you.

TT: ...

D**n. It looks like you’ll have to ask another time...

TT: I would like to inquire you about your new guest, but I have a good feeling you will not answer.

TT: Back to the topic.

TT: You say your Master is Lord English?

That is correct.

In your previous conversations with your informant, his Master...didn’t sound like the kind of person you wished to release. I mean, a being that was far more omnipotent and evil than your informant? It sounded like you were opening Pandora’s Box.

TT: This doesn't sound like an especially admirable objective. Releasing an evil man, who is presumably more powerful than you, an already omnipotent being.

TT: Am I right?

You are right about both. It is not admirable, and he is considerably more powerful.

But you must decide which objective is more important.

You may decide to attempt to destroy the sun and end my life. This will neutralize Jack, who is also much more powerful and dangerous than myself by virtue of the ring he wears in addition to drawing energy from the same sun as I.

He poses a significant threat to reality.

TT: But in the process of killing him and you, I release your master, who is just as deadly?

He's more deadly.

But the danger he poses is sanctioned by paradox space.

It is a known quantity. His very existence in a universe will mean it will inevitably be torn apart.

But there are rules to his entry, and his grim procession through paradox space is rather orderly. The present equilibrium has accounted for him, and will continue to.

Jack however is a loose cannon. He will not stop until he destroys everything he encounters.

Additionally, his existence is your responsibility.

TT: Then I guess I don't have a choice.

“Uh….Lady Rose…?”

==> Rose: Notice that you now have a new visitor.

You blink and lift your gaze from your computer. You lift an eyebrow at the blue iguana that is hesitantly standing at your left, wrapped in a white blanket with green patterns on it. He waves at you with one clawed hand before shyly gesturing to the...cue ball in his other.

“M’name’s Saros, Lady Rose.” His golden eyes blinked as he shuffled forward, the scaly blue hand holding the cue ball stretching out towards her. “I’ve come to deliver this to you…”

You blink before reaching out to grab the cueball. You turn it over in your hand, observing the smooth, white surface of the ball. You raise your gaze to Saros but find that he’s now chattering with the other reptiles that have followed you in your journey to LOHAC. Lifting an eyebrow, you turn to look at your hubtop.

Ah. I see that you now have a cue ball.

TT: What is it for?

It’s for questions.

TT: You expect me...to ask this cue ball questions?

Yes.

TT: That seems ridiculous. How do I know you’re not lying?

TT: Are you--as my friend would say--”f**king with me”? “Hee hee”, “hoo hoo”, “haa haa”?

As pretty as you are, I am not “f**king with you”.

TT: ...

Hee hee?

TT: What good would asking a cue ball questions do for me?

It is like a magical crystal ball. You ask it questions and answers are revealed to you.

TT: Seems rather silly.

What do you think you want to do next?

TT: I do not know. What should I do?

Ask.

TT: Okay, what should I do?

No, don’t ask me. Ask the cue ball.

You roll your eyes at this, huffing softly. Slowly, you finally turn your gaze to the cue ball in your left hand. You gaze at it with a raised eyebrow, a little sceptical. You then sigh and shake your head, shrugging slightly. It’s not like you can do anything else for now...

==> Rose: Ask.

“What should I do now?” You ask the white sphere in your hand.

...A heat forms in your eye for a moment and you blink in mild surprise. But the heat is gone and...a black sun symbol appears on the cue ball. You incline your head as something moves within the darkness of the cue ball through the sun symbol. A blue...triangle seems to float to the surface. It was like one of those eight-ball toys that you shake and ask a question to--how amusing. You study the white words that appear on the blue triangle.

ANSWER JADE

...Interesting. You blink and set the cue ball down. You turn your attention back to your hubtop and open up a chat box with Jade, minimizing your other conversation with your informant for now.

==> Rose: Answer

-- tentacleTherapist [ TT ] began pestering gardenGnostic [ GG ] at 9:45 --

TT: Sorry for the delayed response.

TT: Answering seems to be what to do right now.

GG: rose jeez!!!

GG: finally! D:

GG: you sure seem to be absorbed in whatever you're doing on that computer... :/

GG: were you talking to someone? :0

You raise your eyebrows. How would she kno--? Oh. You had forgotten...

TT: Oh, right. I forgot I gave you the code for the crystal ball.

TT: And here I was thinking I could safely delay responding to messages without seeming like an ass, the way it usually works.

TT: Oops.

GG: oh no, no, no! i don't blame you for not responding!

GG: you must be very upset... :(

You...must be very upset? Why? Sure, you are slightly irritated with your informant, but you aren’t exactly...upset over anything.

GG: are you ok?

TT: Why would I be upset?

GG: um... :(((

GG: because...

GG: uhhh i figured you would have found out by now but i guess you still don't know? D:

You pause at this, eyebrows furrowing. You feel dread starting to creep up on you.

TT: Know what?

GG: about...

GG: john’s dad...

GG: and...

GG: ...

GG: your mom. :(

GG: rose?

GG: hello???

GG: oh nooo... :'(

You have brought your own crystal ball out of your captchalogue deck, gazing at it with wide eyes as an image slowly swims to the surface of the inky-purple surface. With trembling fingers, you gaze at the image that forms with disbelieving eyes.

It couldn’t be…! No…

Puddles of...blood stain the checkerboard ground. Two bodies lay in the bloodshed, red staining the clothes. You shakily move your free hand to brush against the surface of the crystal ball.

“...Mom…?” You murmur to yourself.

The bodies do not move--of course she can’t hear you, but you want to try. Their chests aren’t moving at all; they’re not breathing and that make your eyes burn with unshed tears.

You grit your teeth and rip your gaze away, taking in deep shuddering breaths. When you manage to calm yourself slightly, you turn your gaze back to the crystal ball. As you zoom out a bit, you notice some sort of...black figure standing there with a sword in his hand.

A Dersite, you conclude, as you recognize a few features--it was Jack Noir. The dog head reminds you of Jade’s dog. You notice the golden ring on the Dersite’s only hand--the ring of one of the Queens.

...F**k

You squeeze your eyes shut for a moment, setting the crystal ball down. You can’t bear to look at the bloody scene again. You shakily turn your attention back to your hubtop.

GG: rose please say something. :(

GG: you are making me nervous...

TT: I should have gone looking for her.

TT: Why didn't I?

Yes...why didn’t you? Why didn’t you try to find your mother?

GG: umm...

GG: because you were busy trying to make the best of this situation? :(

TT: John was too. I bet he went to look for his father.

TT: It would have been normal of me. I can't remember what I was trying to prove anymore.

GG: i don't think you should be so hard on yourself about it.

GG: john is being john, and you were being you, which i guess meant taking our problems very seriously and putting all your attention on solving them!

GG: and anyway, you and your mom had a much trickier relationship than john and his dad didnt you?

GG: i mean, not that i am saying that means you were any less attached to her than him...

GG: argh, i don't know if i'm very good at consoling people. sorry rose. i don't want to make you feel worse... :(

You smile shakily at this…

Your chest feels hollow now.

You shake your head slowly, responding to your floundering friend.

TT: You’re doing fine, Jade. For someone raised by a dog...you’re doing great.

GG: oh...that’s...good...i guess...

TT: For some reason, despite all the danger, I never thought she was in any trouble.

TT: I never believed she would actually die.

TT: I grew up with the feeling that something more significant had always been meant for her.

You grit your teeth and press the heel of your palm into your eyes.

It feels cold.

TT: I have always begrudgingly respected her power and wisdom. She always held back on me--she never overwhelmed me.

TT: I think she was just waiting for me to catch up with her.

TT: But now I can't.

GG: ......

GG: i’m so sorry... :,(

GG: rose i think you’re being stronger about it than i am.

You stare blankly at the green words on your screen.

You...no longer feel sad. Something else is stirring inside of you, waking up bit by bit. Your fingers twitch slightly on the keyboard of your hubtop as something burning hot seeps into your chest. It boils and bubbles within you...waiting to be let out.

This feeling...

TT: Probably because my emotions have now ceded to anger.

TT: This shouldn't have happened.

That’s right. This shouldn't have happened. You should’ve been there for your mother. You should’ve been there to help John’s father.

God...John. You wonder if he knows what’s happened to his dad yet. Sh**! You can tell that John’s mental health is in an unstable state right now. He’ll be broken with the news that his father is….dead.

TT: Maybe I will go kill Jack myself.

TT: Right now.

Yes. That sounded like a fantastic idea. Stabbing one of your needles into Jack’s eye sounded like a splendid plan.

GG: oh no.

GG: no, no, no, no! D:

GG: rose that is a much much worse plan!!!!!

GG: he would probably kill you! D,:

You have a moment of warmth. You are grateful for your friend’s concern--but the warmth is quickly washed away by the ice-hot fury that you are feeling within you. You need to slaughter Jack.

TT: Probably.

TT: But the Scratch will wipe us out anyway, and reboot the conditions of our session.

GG: i know what you mean, i was angry at jack and wanted to stop him too, but we have to think of a more sensible way to do it.

GG: please don’t do this, rose! :(

You shut your eyes briefly, contemplating. You don’t want to upset your friend...but...

TT: Whether my existing plan was sensible or not...I may have been allowing myself to be manipulated by an omniscient being regardless.

GG: what? who?

Hello ladies.

You narrow your gaze slightly. Why was your informant here? How was he--...nevermind. He was a supposed omniscient being with incredible power.

GG: what? rose, who is this person??? :/

TT: This is a private conversation. Get out of here.

Oh do not mind me. I’ll just be here. Watching. So do continue your conversation.

GG: what??

GG: argh, no. i’ll deal with you later or something.

GG: rose, you can’t do this!

TT: I don’t know. The voices in my head seem to be egging me on. Perhaps it’s those gods in the Furthest Ring.

TT: If it's true the gods have "selected" me for service, maybe the power they've given me will be sufficient.

TT: Maybe they wanted me to kill Jack all along.

GG: but rose...you don’t even know if these gods are good! they’re probably evil!

Why don’t you just ask?

TT: ...You mean the cue ball.

GG: huh?? rose, what is he talking about?

Just ask it.

You furrow your eyebrows. The rage hasn’t died down yet. Finally, you move your hand to the cue ball you had left on the side. You grab it and hold it up to your eye.

“Are the gods evil?”

The blue triangle swims within the inky darkness inside of the cue ball. You wait for an answer and it slowly appears--

Red, white and black flashes across your gaze and you blink your eyes rapidly in surprise. The cue ball drops from your stunned grasp and rolls away from you.

The rage within you burns stronger. You hug yourself, feeling something prickle your skin. You let out a shuddering breath as...darkness starts to roll off of your body. You skin is starting to gray…

You barely hear the frantic chimes of your computer as you slowly stagger to your feet, continuing to hold your stomach. Your minds swirls--what’s going on, is this right, should this be happening, yes it should--and you take a step forward. You blink and turn your gaze to the reptiles that are standing on the side. They are all huddled together, staring at you with wide eyes.

That look of fear...should also be in Jack’s eyes.

==> Rose: Resist urge to seek revenge.

As much as you don’t want to hurt Jade emotionally...you can’t resist.

J a c k    n e e d s    t o    b e    d e a d    a t    y o u r    f e e t .

You bring your wands out of your Strife Deck, clutching them tightly in your hands as you lift your gaze up to the cloudy sky of LOHAC. Darkness pulses around you as you float off of the ground and into the air.

You need to get to Skaia.

~~

You would’ve enjoyed the blue skies of Skaia at a another time. But now...you only seek revenge. The blue sky becomes tainted with your darkness and storm clouds roil into existence. Black rain falls from the clouds that follow you, hitting the checkerboard ground below. As you slowly descend to the Castle below you, your gaze zeroes in on Jack.

Jack. F**king Jack Noir will pay. He will pay with blood and screams of pain. He will die, die, die, die.

You land on the ground without a sound, wands lifting from your sides. The wind howls around you, but you ignore this. Jack is right in front of you, wings stretched out far and wide. Oh, you can't wait to land at least one blow on him. Who f**king cares if he might kill you, he needs to be beaten at your feet. You step forward, ready to--

“Rose.”

You finally notice that there’s a presence behind you and there’s something gripping your shoulder. You whirl around quickly, raising your wands up to strike the person who had grabbed you--!

Gentle, kind, blue eyes gaze into yours. You blink, widening your eyes before softening them. There is pain within those eyes, like stormy seas. The beast of vengeance within you curls up for a moment, settling at the sight--your wands are stored away for that brief moment.

John...your good friend. You’ve been worried about him. God...he must be struggling to keep going right now. You reach out towards John--wait. His clothes…

You lower your hand and blink in mild surprise. He had...reached God Tier. You haven’t checked up on John in a while...so you never expected him to be--

Jack is suddenly behind John, a wide, snarling grin on his lips.

You re-equip your wands, surging forward--because John can’t die too! He can’t!

Klang!

You widen your eyes at the blur of orange behind John. Orange wings spread out protectively while John’s savior levels his sword at Jack--wait...is that...Dave?

You watch with bafflement as magenta hands suddenly appear out of nowhere. You snap your gaze to the side to see...Bro? Bro in God Tier clothes...!? What is--?

John moves forward and starts to herd you over to the Castle. You struggle for a brief moment before going with John, eyes straying to the battle above before lowering your gaze back to John.

Wksjs akwi ywk dieno, Jounh?” D**n, your words are garbled. John won’t be able to--

To your surprise, John responds, a sad, trembling smile on his lips.

“I’m sorry, Rose. I...I-I understand your pain...” He pauses, taking in a shuddering breath before continuing. “B-But…! I know a way we can bring them back, Rose!”

You blink...and blink again. The black aura around you flickers and you raise your eyebrows at him. Bring them back? But...how…?

Bdkubg tgsf bogglk?” You mumble. Bring them back? That idea sounded so...

“Yes, Rose.” He says with a comforting smile. That smile seems to erase your worries. “We can bring them back.”

He takes your hand and quickly walks with you to...the unmoving bodies of his dad and your mom. You watch with pained eyes as John blinks back tears as he squeezes your hand. He then looks at you with gentle eyes before carefully letting go.

John steps away from you and--his blue clothes suddenly lighten up to orange! You watch with wide eyes as yellow light rolls off of his body, giving him an unearthly glow. But this...is the Aspect of Light, isn’t it? How does John have two Aspects…?

Before you can think about it longer, John’s clothes darken back to blue and he offers you his hand hand, an encouraging smile on his lips.

“C’mon, Rose. We’re bringing them back.”

==> Rose: Take his hand.

You blink, widening your eyes...before you reach out and take his hand. His clothes darken to black and the Space symbol switches with his Breath one. You blink in surprise as you then follow him toward...the pools of blood.

You watch as he bends down suddenly, grabbing...a Sprite pendant from a puddle of blood. He grimaces for a moment before placing the necklace around his neck. With a shaky hand, John then crouches down and place a hand on his dad’s unmoving chest while you take--after a split second of hesitation--your mom’s hand with your free one. You watch as John lifts his head to look at Bro and Dave--a sprite version of Dave...

“We’ll be back!” He calls out.

The two Striders don’t pull their attention away from Jack, but they give John a thumbs up. A green glows surrounds you, John, and your parents. In a flash, the scenery changes. You squeeze your eyes shut for a moment before slowly opening them. You sense John stand up beside you as you also look around with wide eyes.

You were back on LOLAR.

...John could use the Aspect of Space too? You turn your wide-eyed gaze to John as his clothes slowly lighten back up to blue. He looks at you with a small smile, mouth opening to speak.

“Don’t worry, Rose. We’re almost there--”

He suddenly stops talking. His eyes widen and he hunches in on himself. You widen your eyes when John starts coughing, spitting something out to the side--what is that black guck!? Is it...oil…!? Oh no, is he sick? Sh**!

Jounh! Akwi ywk ao’ejdgt?” You murmur franticlaly, standing up quickly and letting go of your mother’s limp hand.

He merely laughs--f**king laughs, unbelievable!--and shakily wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He grimaces at the mess on his hand before looking at you with his bright, blue eyes.

“I’m fine, Rose! It’s just a small problem. It doesn’t hurt, really! It’s kinda similar to throwing up--” He flails slightly under the stern glare you’re giving him. “--er, actually...it’s like coughing up mucus or something…! I’m fine, really!”

You squint at John. You see that...he’s not exactly lying. He doesn’t look like he’s in pain or anything. Finally...you sigh, shaking your head slightly.

Jounh…ywk akwi ajg idoene.” John was such a reckless idiot.

He puffs his cheeks up--how adorable--at you, placing his hands on his hips in a childish way.

“Hey! I’m not an idiot!” He whines back.

You can’t help the fond smile that darts across your face. Oh John…

Suddenly, his smile fades and his face becomes serious, determined. John steps forward and blue wind swirls at his fingertips, carefully lifting his dad and your mom off of the ground with Breath. He floats up into the air with the bodies before looking over at you, his blue eyes glowing slightly. You blink your eyes, furrowing your eyebrows in confusion before floating up to join him.

Wksjs akwi ywk dieno?” You murmur softly. What was he doing?

He turns his gaze to the side and you see that he’s studying a white staircase that leads somewhere up the tower that was on this island.

“I’m gonna put their bodies on their Quest Beds, Rose.”

...Quest...Beds?

You make a noise of surprise as you follow him. Your mom and John’s dad...could be brought back...as gods? That was...impossible...right? Your anger dies out slightly, and you are...hopeful.

Now the two of you are at the very top of the tower. You stare with wonder at the two...Quest Beds that were there. They were really there. You study the symbols of...Breath and Void. Slowly, he lowers his dad onto the Quest Bed of Breath and your mom onto the Quest Bed of Void. The two of you land on the ground and he takes your hand again.

For a split second...you thought nothing would happen. For a moment, your heart sunk. But then the wind started to dance and breeze by. You blink in surprise and look down to see the pebbles roll towards the Quest Beds. Light begins to slowly flood the area...before it vanishes. You then turn your gaze to John and--

...

...The pure joy in his eyes is so breathtaking. He is smiling so wide that it looks like it might hurt. Tears are pricking the corners of his eyes as he gazes up at the sky above. You feel your anger slowly vanish…

You believe everything’s gonna be alright. John is smiling and your mom and his dad are going to come back. Everything was going to--

...Ah…?

Your hand releases John’s slightly when you see that there is now something sticking out of your chest. You do a full-body shudder as your chest throbs with pain and gushes blood.

What was......who......?

“Rose! Rose, I thi--....” John’s excited voice dies out.

You cough...blood dribbles past your lips...and it’s getting harder to breathe. Your vision is being edged with black...and it’s no longer because of the dark aura you’ve been emitting.

“...R-Rose…?” You hear John choke out.

You hear a growling breath ghost over your right shoulder. The anger in your chest flairs and splutters at the same time. F**k, f**k, f**k. He’s here…!

“It took a while to catch on to your sent, brat. You’re my first target, so I’ll get those Striders later.”

No. Oh no. John. No, no, no. You can’t leave alone with this monster! F**k, you should’ve paid attention! Now you have Jack’s f**king sword sticking out of your chest--!

Jack yanks his sword out of you and you fall forward into John’s arms. You scold yourself mentally for smearing John’s clothes with the blood that was on your lips. You open your mouth--you want to tell him to focus on Jack and not you--but nothing comes out. You make a choked, punched-out noise.

Both of you sink to the floor and Jack is swinging his sword down--he’s gonna kill John--!

John doesn’t even lift his head but a barrier of wind suddenly surrounds the two of you. Jack snarls in rage when he’s blocked off before he’s forced to back up--twisters suddenly appear and push the Dersite back into the sky. Your gaze is then turned away from Jack--a warm hand is cupping your cheek--and you’re looking into blue eyes.

“R-Rose…!” His voice cracks slightly as he gazes down at you. You can feel him shaking. “Shh, shh…! It’s...i-it’s gonna be fine. I-I--...!”

You can see John struggle internally and your heart hurts to see him in so much pain. He takes multiple, calming breaths before shaking his head, looking at you with shaky determination.

“...W-Wait for a green box on Derse with Dave. I’ll send you the Tumor by putting a captchalogue card in there. And don’t worry about the Scratch. I’ll complete it. I promise.”

His hand is shaking on your cheek. You stare up into blue eyes...and you see...that he’s scared. He so, so, so scared

You feel weak...but carefully...you move one of your hands up. You touch his cheek--he jumps, but he relaxes when he sees that it’s just you. You gasp for air for a moment...before you smile. You smile through all of your pain and your vanishing anger. You do it for John.

“...It...will b-be...alrig..ht...J-John.” You slowly rasp out. “...I...w-will wait...with D-Dave…”

And f**k, you lose strength in your arm and your hand drops--John catches it and holds it gently with his own hand. He looks at you with wide, watery eyes. The darkness is edging further around your eyes. But you...need to...reassure him. You can't fight at his side...but you can encourage him.

“...G-Good luck...John…”

And the darkness completely overtakes you.

...You open...your eyes?

You take a deep breath...and exhale. You can breathe again. You blink in surprise as you sit up in a purple room. You glance around...and slowly relax.

Ah. This must be your room on Derse. You sit up and find that you had been lying on a pile of scarves and yarn. Inclining your head, you rub your wrists and find that your skin is no longer gray.

Slowly, you stand up and walk towards the lone window within your Derse room. Carefully, you place your hands of the windowsill and lean out slightly, observing the purple city.

...

...So many questions bubbled in your mind and you wanted to just pop your hubtop out and ask John--

...

...But you will wait. You had said that to John. You would wait for him. So, with a sigh slipping past your lips, you gaze at the purple towers surrounding your own. You now wait for Dave and the green box to arrive.

==> Rose: Be Dave before all of this Grimdark stuff happened.

Which one?

==> Uh…

You do realize there are like a million Dave’s with all of the time travel shenanigans he’s doing.

==> Okay. Rose: Be the Dave on LOWAS.

You are now Dave Strider, wearing your broken record t-shirt and black jeans. Your shades are on your face like usual and now...

...

...You blink as you stare at the….bodies before you. You’re not sure...what you’re supposed to feel...but right now, you just feel...numb. When you had stepped on a warp-pad on LOHAC, you simply had predicted that you would meet up with John or something. You didn’t expect to see...this

Two dead bodies. Bodies of your best bro, John, and your brother, Bro.

Seeing the dried up puddles of rusty-red blood beneath the two pale bodies made goosebumps prickle your skin. Right now you are standing on John’s side, reaching a hand out to touch his pale arm.

He's ice cold now.

F**k.

But John and Bro’s bodies are on Quest Beds. Did that mean that both of them were alive somewhere? Sh**, you haven’t been pestering John for a while mostly because of the shenanigans you were doing with--

Ping!

...Speak of the devil and she shall troll you.

You blink as your iShades light up. With a sigh, you move to sit on the edge of John’s Quest Bed. After a moment of consideration, you scoot up a bit and remove John’s glasses, using your other hand to close those blank, misty, blue eyes. You fold the glasses up and let them rest by the nerd’s head.

Now it looked like the little sh** was asleep. F**king fantastic.

You glance over at Bro and he looks like he’s asleep too. His shades are on his chest since you found them a few miles away from this stone tower. You had decided to do the honorable thing and return it to its rightful owner. And now, there lies the pointed shades on your brother’s unmoving chest.

…This is probably the first time you’ve ever seen your big bro look so peaceful for once. Sure he’s mostly blank-faced 24/7, but you’ve never seen him so….relaxed.

...F**k. You can’t really look at him--Bro’s supposed to be a strong motherf**ker. He’s supposed to be invincible and right now he’s just--

...Bro was starting to get better too. You saw it in his eyes when he looked at you when he was patching you up. You had no idea why now he was f**king changing, but it was...something you were beginning to get used to. Something changed and he was becoming less of an a**hole. And you could tolerate him and slowly...begin to like him in a brotherly way.

Ping!

...

...You push your shades up and rub at your eyes. With a sigh, you put them back into place and look over at John.

John...your best bro. The nerd should be sitting up by now, shouting that you got pranked or something. Maybe he and Bro were alive somewhere else, but looking at their unmoving bodies makes you...uncomfortable. It just...it’s not right to see their lifeless bodies.

==> Dave: Answer the troll.

With one last look at John, you accept the message, opening up a screen on your iShades. You squint at the screen and sigh softly.

-- gallowsCalibrator [ GC ] began trolling turntechGodhead [ TG ] at 9:13 --

GC: STR1D3R.

GC: COOL K1D, 4NSW3R.

TG: what

TG: didnt i pester you before that i want to have a small moment to grieve for my bro and best bro

GC: BUT YOU DO R34L1Z3 TH4T BOTH OF TH3M 4R3 ON QU3ST B3DS. >:/

GC: TH3Y’R3 MOST L1K3LY 4L1V3.

GC: 1 M34N, TH3Y 4R3 4L1V3. STR1D3R, JUST L1ST3N TO M3. BRO 1S 4L1V3. TH3 L1TTL3 BLU3B3RRY’S AL1V3 TOO.

TG: not to be depressing or anything but how can you know that

TG: jegus all i can see is just the puddles of disgusting dried up blood below them

TG: for once im actually starting to hate dead things

TG: wait thats wrong

TG: i just hate the fact that my bros are f**king dead like wtf

TG: i still like dead things but things that arent my friends and family

GC: L1ST3N TO M3 D4V3. TH3Y’R3 P3RF3CTLY F1N3. 1 C4N’T T3LL YOU 4NYMOR3 TH4N TH4T.

There’s a pause. You wonder if you’re supposed to respond, but she beats you to it.

Ping!

GC: 4R3 YOU S4D?

You blink and stare at your iShades, furrowing your eyebrows, shifting on the slab of stone you’re currently sitting on.

TG: no wtf is that supposed to mean

GC: YOU D1D S4Y YOU W3R3 GR13V1NG, D1DN’T YOU?

TG: doesnt exactly mean im sad

GC: W4S JOHN YOUR MO1R41L OR SOM3TH1NG?

Your nose scrunches up slightly in confusion.

TG: my what

You then shake your head. Ugh, you’ll f**king ask her about it later.

TG: okay john im actually a little sad about

TG: f**king nerd doesnt deserve all of this bullsh**

GC: 1...1 GU3SS 1 C4N UND3RST4ND TH4T.

You raise an eyebrow at this, leaning back on your hands to look up at the fireflies in LOWAS's sky. You'll admit the place is kinda nice. Running a hand through your hair, you finally respond to Terezi.

TG: you can

TG: what do you mean you can understand

GC: W333333LL, 1N MY T1M3L1N3, 1, 4ND SO M4NY OTH3RS, 4R3 S3R1OUSlY P4L3 FOR JOHN.

You blink...and stare at your screen.

TG: what

TG: whats that supposed to mean

GC: 1N S1MPL3 T3RMS, H3’S L1K3 4 V3RY 4DOR4BL3 GRUB TH4T W3 F33L P1TY FOR.

You...have no idea what the f**k she is trying to explain to you anymore. Slowly, you shake your head, pinching the bridge of your nose before releasing it, sighing softly.

TG: ...

Oh sh**.  This 'pale' thing better not be--

TG: omg you trolls better not be old creepy men drooling over my best bros a**

GC: WH4T? NO. >:[

GC: 1’LL 4DM1T 1 FOUND JOHN 4NNOY1NG 4T F1RST, BUT 4FT3R 4 S3R1ES OF 3V3NTS, 1 H4V3 D3V3LOP3D P4L3 F33L1NGS FOR H1M. H3 H4S DON3 4 LOT FOR M3 4ND 3V3RYON3 1 KNOW.

GC: ST1LL...1 G3T 4 L1TTL3 4NNOY3D WH3N H3 L13S. >:[

TG: what would he lie about

GC: >:/

GC: H1S H34LTH 1S ON3.

You blink and reread those words just to make sure your eyes weren’t f**king with you. John lies...about his health. Well f**k. In the future, you’re gonna knock the nerd’s door down and do sh**ty nurse roleplay if you have to keep your best bro healthy.

Ping!

GC: SORRY. FORG3T 1 S41D TH4T.

TG: too late im planning on being the big mamma bear i become when my best bro neglects his health

TG: like f**k now i gotta alchemize more blankets and get some sort of sh**ty recipe for a lovely soup or something

TG: d**n the overprotectiveness is going off the charts

TG: its like were suddenly having an overflow of protective feelings

TG: we are all going to he** if john cries again

TG: thats how dire this situation is

TG: we will burn in the hottest fire ever to exist and we will die over and over knowing that we didnt comfort the sushi roll that is named john motherf**king egbert

There’s a long pause and you huff. For a brief moment, you turn your head to look at John. You furrow your eyebrows before you scoot closer again, raising a hand over the nerd’s face...before brushing his bangs to the side slightly.

...Wow.

Jade wasn’t kidding. John has a f**king tattoo on his forehead. You raise your eyebrows at this before slowly moving his bangs back in place. You'll have to ask the nerd about it when he's f**king alive.

Ping!

Finally, she responds.

GC: 1 H4V3 NO 1D34 WH4T YOU’R3 T3LL1NG M3 4NYMOR3. >:[

GC: 4NYW4YS, WH1L3 1T’S OBV1OUS TH4T YOU C4R3 4 LOT 4BOUT JOHN, WH4T 4BOUT BRO?

You pause and look over at the mentioned person. Bro, of course, hasn’t moved--because he’s dead. You blink and stare...before turning your attention back to your iShades.

TG: i

TG: im not so sure anymore

TG: before i used to have this loathing feeling for him

TG: like everything he did was just

TG: f**k

TG: you probably dont understand but every single day of all 13 years of my life have been sh**

TG: ive been so paranoid that hed pop up any second i relax or something and hed demand more strifes from me

TG: but then all of a sudden hes being...

TG: NICE

TG: im so f**king thrown off the handle because wtf

TG: 13 years and now he decides to be less of a d****ebag

TG: its just

You stop typing, gritting your teeth. You lift and hand to pinch the bridge of your nose. A breeze gently blows by, running through your hair in a calming way. You blink and stare down at your hands.

You just don’t understand. For years, you’ve felt like the only feeling you have for your brother was hate or something. But now he was being...nice? It was weird and it’s messing up your thought process. You. Don’t. Understand.

Ping!

The sound cuts through your thoughts. You sigh and return your gaze to your iShades, watching as teal words fill it.

GC: >:?

GC: ...

GC: OH.

GC: 1 GU3SS YOU’R3 NOT 4W4R3 OF TH3 TRUTH Y3T. 1 GU3SS 1’M TH3 ON3 WHO’S SUPPOS3D TO T3LL YOU. GR333334444T. >:[

You furrow your eyebrows.

TG: the truth what truth

GC: TH3 TRUTH 1S TH4T BRO W4S BR41NW4SH3D 1NTO B31NG 4N 4BUS1V3 B*****D.

What.

TG: what

You blink and stare at the teal words on the screen of your iShades. Bro was….

What the f**k?

TG: wtf are you talking about

GC: TH3 TRUTH. >:/

GC: 1N MY T1M3L1N3, BRO DO3SN’T W4NT YOU TO KNOW TH3 TRUTH B3C4US3 H3’D R4TH3R YOU S33 H1M 4S 4 D****EB4G. H3 S4YS TH4T YOU SHOULD FOCUS ON TH3 1MPORT4NT TH1NGS.

TG: what do you mean f**king brainwashed

GC: YOU DO R3C4LL TH3 DOLL N4M3D C4L, R1GHT?

You grimace. Just thinking about those glassy, blue eyes made your skin crawl. F**king nightmare doll.

TG: yeah

TG: what about the piece of nightmare fuel is so f**king important

GC: C4L 1S 4 SP3C14L TYP3 OF DOLL TH4T COULD M4N1PUL4T3 BRO W1TH H1S GL4SSY 3Y3S.

GC: 1N TH3 B3G1NN1NG, WH3N YOU W3R3 4 GRUB, BRO W4S S1MPLY W4NT1NG TO M4K3 YOU STRONG3R GR4DU4LLY. HOW3V3R, C4L TW1ST3D TH1S PL4N 4ND BRO 3ND3D UP 4BUS1NG YOU.

You blink. You can’t...breathe for a moment before the words are finally processed in your brain. You take a deep breath….and sigh. You furrow your eyebrows as you stare at the screen on your iShades.

TG: so youre saying that it wasnt bros fault

GC: Y34H. H3 ST1LL BL4M3S H1MS3LF THOUGH.

You blink again, inclining your head just slightly.

TG: why

GC: JOHN TOLD M3 TH4T BRO F3LT L1K3 H3 SHOULD’V3 B33N 4BL3 TO H4V3 DON3 SOM3TH1NG.

TG: could he have done something

GC: NOT R34LLY.

GC: TH3 SOUL W1TH1N TH3 BODY OF C4L 1S 4 POW3RFUL FORC3. 1T’S GOOD TH4T YOU SL1C3D 1T UP THOUGH, COOL K1D. >:]

Your knuckles turn a little white as you grip the edges of John’s Quest Bed. You stand up then, slowly, as you walk around to stand beside your brother’s Quest Bed. You look down at the dead body, the unmoving chest, the shut eyes…

You’re...unsure how to feel about the new information. It's just so sudden and...

TG: ...

...But you know one thing for sure.

TG: i need to talk to him

Terezi is quick to respond, your iShades lighting up briefly with the response.

GC: YOU’LL H4V3 TO DO 1T L4T3R, STR1D3R. YOU H4V3 YOUR OWN JOB.

TG: you mean the boondollar thing

GC: Y3P. 4ND DON’T WORRY, STR1D3R, YOU’LL B3 4BL3 TO H4V3 YOUR F33L1NGS J4M W1TH BRO L4T3R. >:]

You feel something unwind in your chest at that. You feel a little relieved to see that you’ll be able to talk to Bro is the future. You sigh and run a hand through your hair, looking down at your brother’s dead body.

TG: where is he now since its obvious hes alive somewhere in his god tier form

GC: CURR3NTLY, 1N YOUR T1M3L1N3, H3’S W1TH JOHN. BOTH OF TH3M 4R3 F1GHT1NG 4GA1NST 4 W4RP1NG D3RS1T3.

You blink in surprise, pushing your iShades up slightly. The first fact is--wow, Bro is fighting together with someone? Second fact, the person Bro is working together with is John. And now, the third fact is that the two of them are fighting a warping...Dersite?

TG: wtf

GC: TH3Y’R3 F1N3 THOUGH. TH3Y 3V3N H4V3 4 SPR1T3 V3RS1ON OF YOU ON TH31R S1D3.

GC: TH3Y’R3 K1CK1NG 4**. >:]

...Oh. So that’s where your sprite went. You still don’t understand why another you suddenly merged with Crowsprite, but shenanigans happen, you guess…

TG: fine

TG: ill finish up the boondollar sh** and frog stuff with jade and then pull the sh**ty sword out from its pedestal on lohac

TG: easy peasy

GC: DON3 GR13V1NG TH3N?

TG: pretty much

TG: didnt have to actually since both of my best bros are alive somewhere else

TG: gotta go and do my job now

TG: first im gonna take care of unfinished business 

TG: thanks for filling me in and stuff

GC: NO PROBL3M, STR1D3R. NOW G3T MOV1NG. >;]

-- gallowsCalibrator [ GC ] ceased trolling turntechGodhead [ TG ] at 9:34 --

Your shades power down and you look over at the dead bodies of John and Bro one last time. Your gaze lingers on John for a moment before you lower your gaze to Bro, sighing softly.

Golden-orange eyes.

When you were younger, you thought they were red like your own. You’ve seen it before--they were red; they weren't that golden-orange color before. But after the last strife you had with Bro, his eyes were and golden-orange hue--not red. So did that mean…

You blink and turn on your heel. But then you pause and turn around, looking at both Bro and John.

“...We are all going to sit our a**es down and talk about everything. When I’m done with my sh**, we are just gonna talk about all of our sh**ty feelings.”

You get no answer, of course, but you feel a little better. With that, you turn back around and head to the staircase nearby. You head down the steps, searching for the nearest warp-pad back to LOHAC. It takes a handful of minutes, but you finally find one in a grove of glowing trees.

With a hum, you hop onto the warp-pad. Once your feet make contact with the gray surface, you flash away. The damp, cool air is gone, replaced with the crisp, warm heat of LOHAC. You step off of the warp-pad, glancing around briefly--

Nak, nak! You’re back, Knight Dave!”

You mentally groan. Not this guy again. You turn and lower your gaze instantly, raising an eyebrow at the red crocodile that was near your feet.

“...You nab my stuff again, I will flip my sh**.”

The crocodile laughs, clicking his claws together as the soft glow of lava reflects off of his red scales. His pale-blue eyes are bright and curious as he scans you for a brief moment.

“Of course not, Knight Dave.”

You furrow your eyebrows at that.

“Why the he** are you calling me...a Knight?”

The red crocodile tilts his head at this, looking genuinely confused.

“...Aren’t you the Knight of Time?”

You blink...processing before raising an eyebrow. Was that supposed to be your God Tier form or something? He** if you knew. You just sigh and look back at the crocodile.

“Dude, just call me Dave…” You trail off, squinting at the crocodile.

The crocodile understands and grins, tiny, sharp teeth glinting in the low lighting.

“Just call me Larry, Kni--Sir Dave.”

You grimace at the new title. You then give up and stuff your hands into your pockets, turning on your heel to walk in the direction of your apartment building. There was a just some unfinished business you had before you work on the boondollar stuff.

~~

“Dude. Why are you following me?” You mutter as you stand on one of the floating gears--they were like sideways elevators or something--that would help get you to you apartment.

Larry the motherf**king crocodile just shrugs at you. He continues to circle around you, ‘nak’-ing, while you have your hands stuffed into your pockets. Oh my f**king gog, you just want to kick this red lizard off of the gear and into the ocean of boiling lava.

But the little b*****d will most likely survive. You’ve seen it before. All of the crocodiles can apparently swim in the lava as if it were the chillest water in the entire f**king universe. So yeah, you can’t exactly get rid of f**king Larry if you were to kick him off of the gear; he’d eventually come back.

Clank.

You blink and lift your gaze from Larry, noticing that you’re finally at your apartment. You hop off of the gear you were on--and f**king Larry follows you. Your eye twitches as you watch him land beside you on the rooftop on his belly. Larry merely grins up at you--the sly f**king little sh**--

You sigh and shake your head. You turn your attention to the thing you came for. Walking across the rooftop, you stop a foot away from the pile of cloth scraps and a head with glassy eyes. You narrow your gaze down at the remains of Cal.

Bringing your hands out of your pockets, you step forward and crouch down, picking up the severed head of Li’l Cal. His little hat is missing, but that’s not really something you’re focused on. One glass eye is cracked, broken, so you’re left with gazing into the remaining eye.

You can still hear it. The f**king laughter is still ringing in your head. You let out a drawn out sigh as you gaze into the blue eye.

You knew this f**king puppet was bad news. But now that it was confirmed by a troll in the future...you’re not sure how to feel. Relieved? Sure. Happy? Maybe.

But you’re not really focused on your emotions at the moment. Two words keep floating around in your head:

Mind manipulation.

Bro was mind-manipulated? By a doll? Seems pretty unbelievable. But then...Terezi said something about a soul within Cal. As you gaze into the single glassy, blue eye that remains, you feel ice run down your spine. You can still hear the laughing.

“...S-Sir...Dave…?”

You blink and remember that Larry the f**king crocodile had followed you to your apartment. You turn your gaze from the doll head in your hand and glance over your right shoulder to look behind yourself, lifting an eyebrow when you find that...Larry is cowering a distance away. That was new.

“...Dude. What are you doing?” You ask. You thought the little guy would be annoying you more by now.

Larry laughs nervously. You then note that he’s staring at the head of Cal in your hand. Raising an eyebrow, you turn around in your crouched position, and he flinches back when you move Cal’s head around. You blink before narrowing your gaze at Larry.

“...You afraid of Cal?”

Larry stares at the head of Cal with wide blue eyes.

“...W-Well...S-Sir Dave...the soul within that creature you have in your hand is quite frightening.”

You blink, one eyebrow raised.

“Soul? Cal really does have a soul? And you can see it?”

“Y-Yes, Sir Dave.” Larry looks at the head of Cal nervously, clicking his claws together. “...Although it seems weaker now, it’s quite frightening to look at.”

==> Dave: Take care of your unfinished business.

You scoff, turning back around to gather the scattered, torn limbs of Cal and his body.

“Tell me about it.” You mutter in return.

“W-What are you doing, Sir Dave?” Larry stuttered nervously.

“Gonna chuck this li’l f**ker into the lava.” You state carelessly, standing up carefully with the remains of Cal. “He’s my unfinished business before I go boondollar-making.”

Larry seems to breathe a sigh of relief, trailing after you silently with curious eyes as you walk to the edge of the apartment building. Without a further ado, you toss Cal off the edge of the rooftop, watching the puppet fall, fall, fall...and finally hit the surface of the lava below.

You had expected the doll to simply burn up instantly, sinking quickly into the sea of lava. To your surprise, there’s a flash of colors below before a mini explosion happens--Cal f**king exploded. The apartment shakes and you widen your eyes when a column of lava springs up in reaction with Cal’s self-destruction.

“Oh sh**--!”

You jump back quickly, grabbing Larry by the nape of his scaly neck with your right hand at the same time since he had been leaning over the edge to watch with you. Larry yelps in your hold as you quickly back up, left arm raised slightly as blazing air beat against your face and the column of lava sprung all the way up. A mirage of colors crackle up the column of lava, and you see the burning face of Cal for a brief moment--sunken eyes gazing at you with laughter, laughter, laughter--before the molten rock fell back to the surface of the sea with a small splash.

...F**king Cal just wanted to go out with a bang, huh? You scoff as you then move back to the edge after setting Larry back down on the ground. You carefully peer over the edge and there are no remains to be seen.

...Hot d**n. It’s like you were Frodo or something and you threw Sauron’s ring into the gog d**n volcano. Too bad there was no Smeagol around to also toss into the f**king fire. Although you wouldn’t want to lose a finger, so it’s cool.

Larry scuttles back to your side, clinging to your leg--hey, get off--peering off the edge to see the bubbling lava below. He seems to scan the sea of lava for a moment before breathing a sigh of relief, sagging against your leg.

“He’s gone for good, Sir Dave…”

You blink…before shrugging. Carefully, you walk back to the center of the roof, limping slightly since Larry was still clinging to your leg like a d**n koala.

Greeeaaaat,” You drawl before shaking the leg that Larry was clinging to. “Now can you get off of my gog d**n leg? I know these legs are the sh**, but I don’t need you to cling to them.”

Larry blinks up at you before grinning lazily--oh you little son of a b***h.

“I feel quite comfortable here, Sir Dave!” The crocodile chirps happily--that little sh**--before continuing. “So, you said you were boondollar-making? I would be excited to watch you in your journey.”

You glare at Larry through your shades before rolling your eyes. He’ll follow you anyways again. With a sigh, you walk over to the edge of the rooftop; the sideways gear-elevator thing was back. You look down at Larry with a raised eyebrow.

“Last chance to get off the Strider Express.” Larry only clings to your leg tighter. You huff at this, a small smirk crawling along your lips. “Fine. Here we go.”

You hop onto the gear as it comes by, Larry still clinging to your leg as you land safely onto the metal surface. You have a lot of sh** to get done. And the faster you get your sh** done, the faster you get to meet up with all of your friends.

==> Dave: Be the Reader.

==> Reader: See what John and the others are doing.

Chapter Text

==> Reader: See what John and the others are doing.

Well...right now, John is speaking to Bal. Bro, Davesprite, James, and Rox are settling by the Castle--er, the unbloody part of the Castle. John is murmuring softly with Bal on where the best place was to drill for the Tumor. The salamander had replied that there was a clear area near the middle of the battlefield. James watched his son at a distance as he stood by the Castle, nervously playing with the blue sleeves of his Knight clothes.

John smiled down at Bal and waved at the other, his dad’s wallet in his hand--James had given it to his son when the younger explained what he was gonna use it for. The salamander popped a few bubbles at John before crawling to where James and the others were standing. After the crawling the large distance, Bal panted as he looked up at the others before settling his gaze on James.

“John will be back with your wallet after he’s brought out the Tumor.”

James nodded slowly, feeling a little out of place as he watched his son fly away. The long hood whipped around in the wind as the Heir drifted away. It made James antsy when his son wasn’t beside him, wasn’t within reach to keep safe. But he would restrain himself and trust his son to keep himself safe.

“...You said...you would explain to me?” James questioned softly as he turned to look at Bro, who was righting a table up and a few chairs so they could all sit. “What is it that I don’t know?”

“I’m sure you’ve noticed already, James,” Bro drawled as he sat down on one of the chairs. “You’re in denial that your son is acting….’older’.”

James stiffened slightly. The Knight of Breath inhaled sharply...before exhaling, walking over to the righted table slowly. He pulled a seat out for Rox and let her sit down first. Davesprite--the sprite suddenly hunched his shoulders and coughed. Everyone looked over at the sprite in alarm.

Davesprite waved them off even as he wheezed. Finally, he turned his head to the side and a...puff of smoke fell out of his mouth. Davesprite cleared his throat multiple times, sighing and relaxing when his hacking fit was done. He looked over at everyone else and shrugged sheepishly.

Ashes. Abandoning timelines have their consequences.” He muttered.

Bro raised his eyebrows and understanding darted across his face for a moment--now he knew why John always hacks up oil; it must be different with people of other Aspects though.

James looked at Davesprite with concern and Rox looked like she wanted to check up on the sprite, but the young Strider waved them down and pulled his own seat out. Davesprite sat down beside Bro, tail curling around one of the chair legs slightly, relaxing when he was finally settled. Bal hopped onto the other free seat, eyeing the two new faces carefully before sitting down. The Knight of Breath finally took his own seat, hands in his lap, watching Bro wearily as the Thief gazed back at him.

“Before Dave and I start talking...what do you already know, James?” Bro questioned.

Bro crossed his arms and leaned back, looking at the Knight with a raised eyebrow, prompting the other to tell his story first. James wanted to know what was going on...but he decided to relent and tell what he knew so far.

“...When I had come back from work...I had expected my son to be avoiding me again, holed up in his room, pestering his friends...” He began softly. “...But then he opened the door just as I pulled out my keys.” James paused for a moment, inhaling softly. “...He hugged me.

James bit his lip, nervously combing a hand through his hair for a moment.

“...Instantly...I thought something was wrong. Usually, John avoids me--he doesn’t really initiate contact between us.” The Knight of Breath murmured. “...But when he pulled back from the hug and looked at me, I--”

James cut himself off and shut his eyes, leaning back in his seat slightly. Slowly, he turned his head and opened his eyes. John was nothing but a blue speck in the sky now, but James still needed to see that the teen was still there.

“......His eyes are something that haunt me, Broderick.” James nearly whispered after a moment of silence. “For a moment I had thought….a stranger was in my house...”

Davesprite was leaning on the table, arms crossed. James could see out of the corner of his eye how the taloned fingers twitched. James turned to look at the group before him with weary eyes. Rox had her lips pursed together, Bro’s eyebrows were furrowed, Bal clicked his claws together nervously, and Davesprite looked off to the side, wings fluffing up for a moment.

“Tell me, Broderick…” James’s shoulders slumped as he looked at the Thief with helpless, tired eyes. “...What happened...to my son?”

Bro gazed back for a long moment….before sighing. The blonde ran a hand through his hair, grumbling for a second, shades slipping down his face a bit. After a moment of consideration, Bro sighed again before taking his shades off completely, folding them up and setting them on the table next to his hands as he placed his elbows onto the white surface.

“...Welp, I guess that’s enough info on your part. I’ll tell my bit and Dave will tell his.” Bro looked at James with his golden-orange eyes. “No questions until we’re completely done, understand?”

James nodded slowly...and he suddenly felt fingers wrap around his left hand. Blinking in surprise, he saw that Rox had took his hand. The Mage of Void smiled lopsidedly at the Knight, squeezing the hand comfortingly. James swallowed and shakily smiled back before looking at Bro, feeling a little prepared.

“I understand.”

Bro nodded and straightened his back slightly. He squinted over to where John was at the moment--freaking kid always getting himself in trouble--before finally looking back at James.

“Alright...so I’ll be blunt and straight to the point. I’m sure you have your suspicions, so here’s me confirming where your thoughts might be straying.”

James swallowed, mouth dry, as Bro gazed back unblinkingly, golden-orange eyes looking into his cobalt ones. James couldn’t help but tighten his grip on Rox’s hand, his shoulders shaking minutely.

‘It’s just...there’s no way….’ The Knight thought weakly in his mind.

But both the Strider and Egbert knew just by making eye-contact with each other. Both of them knew the truth--it was f**king simple for all of them to see. Rox bit her lip as she also drew her own conclusions. Davesprite looked uncomfortable and Bal lowered his gaze with sad eyes.

“John is a time traveler.” Bro stated bluntly. “And your son has come back from seven years in the future.”

==> Reader: See what John is doing now.

John gazed down at the spot Bal had described. Quickly, the ravenet flew down, arms at his sides as he dived. The Heir then slowed to a stop just before he reached the surface, righting his body up, feet landing on the checkerboard ground with a soft tap.

The Heir crouched down, left elbow propped on his left knee while his right hand moved down and smoothed over the surface of the checkerboard ground. His fingers brushed over small cracks and lumps on the ground before he retracted his hand slightly. Finally, John’s right hand formed a fist and he lightly rapped his knuckles against the surface of Skaia.

The sound seemed to echo in the clearing for a moment. John hummed thoughtfully before standing up, stretching a little. He then lowered his gaze back to the ground and raised a finger beside his head, Breath swirling around his hand. John moved his finger through the air--and a deep ‘X’ was etched into the ground. The Heir grinned to himself as he started to drift off of the ground, gazing at the ‘X’.

“‘X’ marks the spot.” He hummed cheerfully as he then lifted his gaze skyward, flying up quickly.

John soared up into the air and finally paused when he found a good enough height. The Heir lowered his gaze to the ground, using his iGlasses to zoom in on the small ‘X’ he had scratched onto the battlefield with his Breath.

Shaking out his hands, John took a deep breath...before exhaling slowly. He repeated this several times before his eyes began to glow blue. He waved his arms around carefully and the wind started to pick up.

John felt the Breath sing happily inside of him. It flowed through him like blood. John allowed a small smile to dart across his face as he slowly raised his arms up, palms down. The Breath around him danced, blue wind circling around the Heir, brushing his eyelids, cheeks, and forehead. John chuckled softly, gaze now raised towards the wind swirling around him.

“...Yeah.” He murmured to the air, palms now facing upward as he opened his arms up, smiling softly. “I missed you too.”

The wind continued caress his face gently. John’s smile widened when he heard the gentle whisper of a thousand voices--yet they were all just one voice in the end.

My Heir.

Hello, John Egbert.

My beautiful, compassionate, brave Heir.

Greetings.

“Hiya, Breath.” He laughed when his hair was tousled slightly by the wind. “Sorry for the multiple scares I’ve caused you--I mean, using other Aspects and all that....”

The Breath hummed softly, gently running through John’s hair--a sign of forgiveness. John smiled crookedly at the wind drifting around him. Out of all the gods, John had been the one to closely bond with his Aspect throughout the entire Game.

He had begun hearing the voice of Breath through the four year war with Lord English. At first, he thought he was going crazy. But...he slowly came to understand that the voices were just the Breath talking to him. He never exactly understood Aspects…...but all of them, he found, were sentient beings. It was awkward, at first, talking to Breath, but the Heir and the Aspect came closer to each other--inseparable ‘partners in crime’. His friends were a little baffled by the events, but they all wrote it down as ‘John being John’.

And now, back to the present, John smiled up at Breath, letting the wind swirl around his torso in a makeshift hug. John chuckled softly gaze softening as he kept his arms up, watching blue wind thread through his fingers.

“...We’re gonna dig up the Tumor now.” The Breath hummed thoughtfully at that. John continued. “You ready?” The wind picked up and John laughed as it rushed around him, his hair and hood whipping in the ragging breeze--the Breath was excited. “Alright, alright~here we go.”

John inhaled sharply, carefully moving his arms--the Breath followed his movements. Slowly, a twister of wind was formed, swirling faster and faster. John raised his hands up slowly as the speed picked up, palms facing downward. He took a deep breath...and sighed softly. His gaze settled back onto the ‘X’ down below.

Without anymore waiting around, John brought his hands down, sending the twister down onto the surface of Skaia, hitting the ‘X’ sharply. John grunted with the resistance he was met with...before he managed to crack the surface.

Black and white tiles were blown away as John narrowed his gaze slightly, blue wind roaring around him. He grinned triumphantly when he managed to drill in a little deeper with his Breath. He idly hummed a tune as digging started to go smoothly...

{Yo, John.}

John blinked, startled for a moment, before he relaxed. It was Dave--or, er, Ghost-Dave. In his head. John inclined his head as he continued to drill into the surface of Skaia.

‘Dave? What’s up?’ John’s eyes never strayed from the surface of Skaia. ‘Also, you three haven’t talked for a quite a while.’

{Sorry, bro,} Dave’s voice crackles softly in his head, a gentle fire that melts his shivering nerves. {The ladies and I were chatting a bit. We were talking about the Tumor and the Green Sun sh**.}

‘Yeah? What’s up?’

{Well,} Rose’s voice drifted into the conversation, cozy like warm sun on a cool, breezy day. {We were wondering if we really should set the Tumor off…}

John hummed at that, grunting when his Breath met a particularly rocky part within the many layers of Skaia’s core. He rolled his shoulder around and raised his hands up again. Taking a deep breath, he snapped his arms down, Breath tunneling down stronger than before.

‘Oh...I’ve thought about it.’ He murmured within his mind. ‘And the more I thought about it…...its uses are far more valuable.’

{I see, I see~} Jade hummed. {This was what I was talking about before, guys! I kinda pull most of my energy from the Green Sun. I think other-me will end up with the same problem, so we’ll end up needing the Green Sun after all. The Tumor will blow up in the end!}

{It’s not that I disagree with you, Jade,} Rose murmured placatingly. {But without the Green Sun...Lord English will be greatly weakened.}

John inhaled sharply at that. The sound of Skaia being drilled into rumbled loudly in the background as everything went silent within the Heir’s mind. John watched as his Breath continued to twist down into Skaia’s surface. After a moment of silence, John spoke within his head.

‘....The Tumor will happen regardless. You’ve seen an image of the Green Sun briefly, didn’t you, Rose?’

{....I have.} She responded softly.

{...So how are we gonna deal with the Green Sun and Lord D**khead if the Tumor is inevitable?} Dave drawled.

John’s hands jerked when he felt the resistance disappear under his Breath drill. He blinked and softened up his Breath, using it instead to feel around instead of continuing to drill. John’s hands glowed blue as he felt through his Breath. He could feel the inner walls of Skaia, and, eventually, he felt the smooth surface of a silently ticking, massive object.

He had reached the Tumor within Skaia.

John shook his wrists out and his hands stopped glowing. His Breath dispelled slowly as he floated down to the surface of Skaia, drifting over the edge of the hole he had created.

‘...I believe we need to talk to Callie about that.’

{Callie?} Jade murmured thoughtfully. {Huh…}

{Something you remember about her, Jade?} Rose inquired.

{Well...I had met an alternate version of her.} Jade hummed as she recounted the details. {Do you guys remember the time when I was asleep before the fight with the Condesce, Spades Slick, and Lord Jack happened? Well, when I was asleep...I was with a God Tier Callie. She was a Muse of Space.}

John landed on the surface of Skaia, right on the edge of the hole, causing loose pebbles to fall and tumble into the deep, dark pit. John furrowed his eyebrows thoughtfully at Jade’s words.

‘Hmm...you did tell us about meeting an alternate Callie. What was she doing? Do you remember?’

{I think she was...going to get rid of the Green Sun.}

{Really? What was she gonna do--blow up the entire gog d**n thing?} Dave muttered with a slight lazy drawl.

{Maybe?} Jade replied with a nervous giggle. {I was woken up...uh...before anything else happened.}

John inclined his head thoughtfully, gaze still on the hole he made. Finally, he drifted off of the ground and floated to the center of the pit. He slowly started to descend, eyes peering into the darkness.

‘...We’ll have to think of something with cherub twins problem. While they are both alive, killing one half would kill the other half.’ John turned on the night vision on his iGlasses as he went in deeper. ‘We’ll need to think of something to separate the two. Or perhaps we can contact Callie early in secret? I dunno. What do you guys think?’

{Sounds like something we can brainstorm over. Yes, that sounds like a plan, John.} Rose answered first.

{I’m on board, dude. We gonna kick some serious a** and save the skull princess, right?} Dave yawned slightly.

{Yeah, yeah! Operation: Save Cinnamon Roll Callie!} Jade cheered.

John chuckled as he drifted deeper.

‘Alright. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get that Tumor.’

~~

Ping!

John blinked in surprise when his iGlasses lit up slightly. The ravenet darted his gaze around the lense of his glasses as he opened a screen up. John blinked his eyes rapidly in surprise before letting out a little, fond laugh.

‘Oh hey~’ John lifted an eyebrow out of pleasant surprise, grinning slightly as he continued to drift down the long tunnel he had recently made. ‘I’m getting an invite to a certain memo. Do you remember this one Dave?’

Dave let out a small chuckle in the back of the ravenet’s mind, seeing through the Heir’s eyes.

{Haha, oh sh**, how could I not? I wonder if it’s about Terezi again.}

Jade blew out a raspberry, sighing within the confines of John’s mind.

{Aw man, that means Mean-Karkat is gonna be talking.} She pouted, grumbling slightly. {I hate Mean-Karkat.}

John laughed at this before opening up the memo that was sent to him, an amused smile on his lips. He drifted deeper into the hole he had made, but his gaze was on the bright screen on his glasses.

?CG AT ??:?? opened memo on board FRUITY RUMPUS A**HOLE FACTORY.

CURRENT turntechGodhead [ CTG ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

CTG: what

CURRENT ectoBiologist [ CEB ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

CEB: ok, i’m here! :B

CEB: hey dave! :D

CTG: john dude my best bro

CTG: sup

CEB: how are you doing lately? fine, i hope. :B

CTG: im totes chill at the moment

CTG: but i should be asking you that question

CTG: dude u doing okay

John huffed, looking past the screen on his iGlasses to look at the dark tunnel he’s floating down into.

CEB: i’m fine dave. i’m doing some pretty random shenanigans. rose will help fill you in when you meet up with her.

CTG: wow

CTG: seems like youve been busy

CTG: we have a lot of catching up to do

?CG: EVERYBODY SHUT THE F**K UP, I HATE YOU BOTH, ETC. ETC. ETC.

John laughed at this as he floated further down the tunnel he had created.

“Yep. He’s still the same.”

{Psh, so we’re talking to a past-Karkat?} Dave murmured. {Lame, dude.}

?CG: NOW THAT THE PLEASANTRIES ARE OUT OF THE WAY, THERE IS IMPORTANT BUSINESS TO DISCUSS.

?CG: THIS MEMO IS NOT ABOUT WHICH GUY CAN MANAGE TO BE THE HEFTIEST SACK OF SHAME GLOBES TO ONE ANOTHER.

?CG: IT IS NOT ABOUT WHICH ONE OF US WILL MOST DECISIVELY ESCORT THE OTHERS "TO SCHOOL", WHERE THEY WILL RECEIVE A VAST HELPING OF "OH SNAP" RAMMED DOWN THEIR INSATIABLE IGNORANCE SHAFTS.

?CG: THIS IS AN IMPORTANT CONVERSATION WHICH I BELIEVE NEEDS TO TAKE PLACE HERE AND NOW, SO YOU WILL BOTH SHAPE YOUR SH** UP AND PERHAPS BEGIN TO APPROXIMATE PEOPLE WHO AREN'T EXCRUCIATINGLY RETARDED.

Oh gog. John’s sides were hurting with how hard he was laughing. The Heir held his stomach as his laughter echoed through the tunnel.

“HahahahaHAHAHAHA--o-oh, my gog! Ahahaha! Definitely a p-past-Karkat--pffft, ahahaha!”

John had to remove his iGlasses for a moment, wiping at the tears pricking his eyes before placing his glasses back on. The Heir smiled as he watched the conversation continue.

CTG: ok later windbag

?CG: STRIDER, F**K OFF!

?CG: AND BY F**K OFF, I MEAN F**K OFF BACK OVER HERE YOU INSUFFERABLE PR**K!

CEB: aw, dave. don’t leave yet! i think we should listen to what karkat has to say.

?CG: YES. LISTEN TO YOUR LEADER, STRIDER. AS DUMB AS EGBERT IS, HE IS SMARTER THAN YOU AND IS THE RIGHTFUL SUPERIOR AMONG YOUR DREARY LITTLE PARTY.

?CG: BUT I AM THE SUPERIOR OF BOTH OF YOU AND WHAT YOU REALLY NEED TO BE DOING IS LISTENING TO ME.

CTG: yo not cool

CTG: dont call egbert dumb you a**hole

?CG: LIKE I F**KING GIVE A D**N.

CEB: c’mon guys, let’s not fight.

CEB: you were saying, karkat?

FUTURE carcinoGeneticist [ FCG ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

John blinked in surprise. ‘Future carcinoGeneticist’? Did that mean Future-Karkat was responding the memo?

‘Huh. This is new.’ He hummed.

FCG: JOHN, STOP BEING NICE TO PAST ME. I AM SAYING RIDICULOUS SH** THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO REALLY LISTEN TO AT THE MOMENT.

?CG: WHAT THE F**K? WHAT THE HE** IS GOING ON?!

FCG: OH MY GOG SHUT THE F**K UP! MY PAST-SELF IS SO F**KING ANNOYING.

FCG: ANYWAYS, JOHN. BE CAREFUL DOWN THERE WITH THE TUMOR. I CAN SEE YOU FLOATING DOWN THAT TUNNEL THERE.

FCG: I DON’T WANT YOU TO SUDDENLY FUMBLE AND BLAST YOUR A** TO THE SKY WITH THE F**KING TUMOR.

CTG: what the he** is even happening anymore

CTG: also this is pretty f**king meta

?CG: SHUT THE F**K UP STRIDER.

FCG: SHUT THE F**K UP STRIDER.

CTG: haha you guys said the same thing

?CG: IWOANi)$+€]’ai$kH(57kh5f3rrtj&irhaIh$u(*(yYYuI

CTG: woah keyboard smash

John raised an eyebrow and laughed nervously at this. The ravenet glanced to the side briefly, floating to the side of the tunnel to brush his hand against the surface of the brown stone. He returned his gaze to his iGlasses, sweating slightly.

‘Geez, this conversation is getting out of hand.’

CEB: guys, guys. please calm down.

FCG: JOHN. NO. STOP BEING NICE.

CEB: shooooosh, karkat. calm down, dude. shoooooosh.

CEB: and don’t hate your past-self. it’s not nice to hate yourself. >:B

?CG: ...

?CG: OH. MY. GOG!

?CG: UNBELIEVABLE!

?CG: AM I SERIOUSLY GONNA BE PALE FOR JOHN IN THE FUTURE!? WHAT THE N**K-LICKING F**K!?

FCG: OH SHUT UP, A**HOLE!

CTG: ...

CTG: i think im just gonna go

CEB: dave, c’mon this conversation is getting so interesting!

CTG: okay ill admit that things are getting pretty interesting but is he seriously arguing with himself

CEB: time works in mysterious ways, dave. :D

CTG: oh tell me about it

CTG: recently i got a thumbs up from myself

CTG: pretty weird but i was like whatever man and i returned the thumbs up like the strider that i am

FCG: JOHN.

CEB: yeeeeeeees?

FCG: YOU F**KER. I CAN TELL THAT YOU’RE LAUGHING AT WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THIS GOG FORSAKEN CONVERSATION.

John couldn’t help but grin.

CEB: XD

FCG: OH MY GOG! I CAN’T F**KING BELIEVE YOU!

FCG: AND I CAME BACK TO THIS CONVERSATION BECAUSE I WANTED TO PROTECT YOU FROM THE HARSH WORDS OF MY PAST-SELF! WHAT THE F**K, JOHN!?

CEB: aw karkat i’m perfectly fine. we’ll all probably laugh about this later on, haha! :B

FCG: AAAAAAAAARGH!

FCG: I WANT TO STRANGLE YOU! BUT IN MY TIMELINE YOU’RE ON A F**KING MISSION THING!

John blinked. A mission? He paused in his flight towards the center of Skaia, gaze narrowing just slightly.

CEB: ...what kind of mission?

FCG: ...?

FCG: OH WAIT. F**K, YOU DON’T KNOW YET.

FCG: I’LL MAKE SURE TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT IT LATER. BUT LONG STORY SHORT, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO GO WITH THE SPRITE-VERSION OF YOUR FRIEND AND GO TO ALTERNIA.

FCG: IN THE “PAST”.

John raised his eyebrows in surprise. Was Karkat talking about...the Troll Ancestors?

FCG: I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU’RE WANTING TO ASK ME A WHOLE F**K TON OF QUESTIONS. BUT I TOLD YOU BEFORE. I’LL TROLL YOU LATER, JOHN.

John hummed softly to himself before continuing his flight forward. He raised his gaze up slightly; the tunnel was getting bigger now…

CTG: hold up

CTG: what mission impossible shebang are you guys talking about

?CG: OH MY F**KING GOG! I OPENED THIS MEMO FOR ONE THING AND ONE THING ONLY!

?CG: STRIDER, STOP HITTING ON TEREZI IMMEDIATELY! IT’S F**KING EMBARRASSING TO WATCH!

FCG: NO ONE F**KING CARES ABOUT THIS TOPIC ANYMORE!

CTG: haha he thinks im hitting on terezi

CTG: john the dudes jealous

?CG: NO I AM F**KING NOT! JUST F**KING STOP HITTING ON TEREZI!

CTG: nah

CTG: whatever you think im doing im not gonna stop

CTG: but what else is new

CTG: its just some space chick macking on me on whatever chance she gets

?CG: OH “HA HA”!

?CG: IF SMUG WERE A MOTORCYCLE THEN IT JUST JUMPED OVER A F**KING CANON.

?CG: THE CROWD GOES WILD WITH DISMAY AND THEN COMMITS MASS SUICIDE!

John chuckled at this as he finally stopped at a massive cavern. The Heir blinked and floated into the area, gaze darting around to finally settle on...the Tumor. The ravenet stared up at the giant bomb, grimacing slightly.

The bomb was white and black as usual. In the center of the bomb--John drifted closer--the countdown was already ticking down slowly, the blue numbers changing with each second that passed by. John reached out and gently placed his hand onto the surface of the bomb, shutting his eyes for a moment.

...

...He could feel it. The two universes within the bomb...

Ping!

John blinked his eyes open, gaze focusing on the text on his screen.

CTG: yo john you here anymore

CTG: cmon you were the one who told me to stay for this sh**ty conversation

CEB: sorry. i was having a small moment.

John then sighed, reaching into his pocket to bring out his dad’s wallet. The ravenet opened up the wallet and quickly captchalogged the massive bomb. In an instant, the Tumor was no longer filling the giant cavern. Loose rocks fell from the ceiling, clattering to the floor below.

John scanned the area for a moment before nodding to himself. The ravenet turned around and floated back up to where he came from.

CTG: a moment

CTG: what do you mean

CEB: bluh, just something small. by the way dave, have you found a place to sleep yet?

CTG: what

CTG: why are you suddenly asking if i found a place to sleep

CTG: did you want to snuggle down with me or something

CEB: haha, probably later dude. i’m always down for some bro-cuddles. :B

CEB: but why i really want you to sleep is because you need to meet up with rose on derse.

CTG: ?

CTG: something i need to do on derse with her

CEB: yes. she’ll probably explain more to you. and i’ll send a note to you two to inform the both of you more.

CEB: ...

CEB: and i’m sorry.

John bit his lower lip. He paused in his flight and lowered his gaze to the ground far down below him. His hands shook slightly.

‘...I’m practically asking Dave to die for me. Rose too. F**k...maybe I shoul--’

{Dude. It’s alright.} Phantom-Dave cut in quickly, popping into existance beside the ravenet so the Heir could see the Knight of Time’s expression; the Strider was giving him a stern look. {Other-me and Other-Rose will understand. We’re you’re f**king friends so don’t count us out just yet.}

John grimaced, looking at the other with worried eyes. Dave just sent the Heir a smirk, reassuring the other carefully. The Heir still looked doubtful, lowering his gaze slightly.

‘It’s...but I’m sending those two on a suicide mission. What kind of f**king friend does tha--?’

{John.} Rose misted into view, gaze soft as he God Tier clothes drifted in the breeze that blew into the tunnel. {It will be fine. This timeline’s Dave and Rose will understand. The note you have already prepared will be enough for them.}

Dave crossed his arms, red cape billowing behind him as he gestured to John to start flying upwards again. The dead Seer and the dead Knight flanked the Heir as they both flew upwards.

{Perhaps they will both ask you questions later on--they would want to hear from you yourself. But they will understand and they will trust you.} Rose comforted softly as she floated at John’s left. {It will be fine.}

John clenched and unclenched his hands nervously. But slowly...he nodded his head. He would have to trust that his friends...were still his friends--no matter what timeline or alternate world he was in. He prayed that this timeline’s Rose and Dave would be safe in their God Tier forms after setting off the bomb.

Ping!

The noise drew John back to his iGlasses. He gave small smiles of reassurance to his friends, watching them fade from view and back into the realm of his mind. John sighed softly as he looked up, light shining above at the entrance of the pit he created in Skaia.

CTG: what

CTG: dude you need me to come over

CTG: ill drop my things like theyre the hottest f**king things they ever were and come over

CTG: you probably need the bro cuddles now dont you

CTG: d**n

CTG: do you need them john do you need the bro cuddles now

?CG: OH MY F**KING GOG. SHUT UP, STRIDER!

FCG: HEY JOHN, ARE YOU ALRIGHT? DON’T LIE TO ME.

John smiled awkwardly. He was so lucky to have such caring, amazing friends.

CEB: don’t worry, karkat. i’ll see you in the future.

CEB: and dave, it’ll be explained in the note i’ll send in the green box later on.

CEB: see you later, bud. :B

CURRENT ectoBiologist [ CEB ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

CTG: woah wait

CTG: d**n it john get back here

CTG: f**k

?CG: D**N IT, I STILL NEEDED TO TELL EGBERT WHAT A F**K UP HE WAS BEING! I MEAN WITH JACK NOIR AND ALL OF THAT SH**!?

FCG: THERE IS NOTHING F**KED UP ABOUT JOHN. AND THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE JACK NOIR THING! HE SAVED OUR A**ES FROM NEVER GETTING OUR GOD TIERS! JUST SHUT THE F**K UP ALREADY!

CTG: oh my gog

CTG: im done

CTG: bye a**hole #1 and less of an a**hole #2

CURRENT turntechGodhead [ CTG ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

?CG: F**KING STRIDER! DUMBA**, GET BACK HERE! I’M NOT F**KING DONE.

FCG: ARGH, WHATEVER. I GUESS I’LL LEAVE TOO.

FCG: F**K! DAMARA IS EATING ALL OF THE COOKIES AGAIN!

FUTURE carcinoGeneticist [ FCG ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

?CG: F**KING PIECES OF SH**!

?CG: F**KING FINE.

?CG: I’LL JUST CLOSE THIS D**N MEMO.

?CG closed memo.

John smiled amusedly as the last of the gray text left his screen. He closed the window and turned his gaze forward, flying closer and closer to the light of Skaia at the entrance of the hole. He’ll just take the captchalogue card, put it in the green box, and give the rest of his dad’s wallet back to its rightful owner--

...Wait. Karkat--future-Karkat to be more accurate--had mentioned…’Damara’? John raised his eyebrows in thought as he flew upwards. He then remembered a certain foul-mouthed ghost-troll--but she was very sweet and kind when she spoke in broken English.

‘...Damara…...Megido?’

{The teen version of the Handmaid, right?} Jade piped up--John could practically see the Witch tilt her head curiously like an innocent pup. {I used to talk with her too. Wasn’t she forced into working for Lord English?}

John grimaced. Karkat had told him the story of the Troll Ancestors. The Handmaid was a sad tale to the Heir. Forced as a child to work for Lord English, the Handmaid ended up dying in one last fight against the Condesce. John narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, watching the ground below him before lifting his gaze to the light that was getting closer to him.

‘...Let’s go save her.’ He finally said within his mind.

{Er...what!?} Jade yelped. {Save her!? I’m not opposed to the idea but--...!?}

{Yes, Doc Scratch is watching over her. It would be dangerous…} Rose murmured.

‘Hmmm...don’t care!’ John stated cheerfully. ‘M’gonna free her once I get my zappy powers and get them under control.’

{John, dude…...I’m totally in on this. Let’s go save the Japanese troll.} Dave chuckled while Jade let out a worried whine.

{Dave! Don’t encourage John so soon! He might get hurt!} Jade scolded.

{...Maybe not.} Rose suddenly butted in, a sort of amused, curious tone in her voice. {I think...John will be alright.}

{What do you mean, Rose?} Jade asked worriedly. {Doc Scratch’s a servant of Lord English. It worries me that the cue ball might hurt John!}

John huffed softly as he was now mere seconds of reaching the surface. Rose hummed thoughtfully, contemplating; John could imagine her pursing her lips again. Finally, the Seer spoke.

{My vision, while weaker since I am simply a spirit, shows that John will meet Doc Scratch after freeing Megido.} Rose’s voice was laced with curiosity. {I see fragments of the conversation, but I can’t hear anything between Doc Scratch and John. Also, I see that Megido will join Karkat and the others on the Meteor--it is apparent that you will drop her off there, John.}

John processed this silently as he finally reached the surface, shooting up into the air for a moment, flying upwards before coming to halt, lazily drifting in the air as he gazed at the sky above him for a moment.

{Well...if Rose says you’ll be safe…} Jade begrudgingly murmured. {Then I guess we’ll go and save Damara! She’ll be mighty suspicious of you though John.}

John nodded mentally, slowly lowering his gaze to look at the checkerboard battlefield below.

‘I understand.’

John then paused.

Bro and Davesprite must be done telling his story by now.

God...how would Dad and Rose’s mom react? Dad especially. John felt a sinking feeling in his gut; it twisted his insides and made him feel...sluggish. What would Dad think of him? A failure? What if Dad yells at him? John practically killed the son he knew. John from the future is not the same as innocent John before the Game.

F**k.

John squeezed his eyes shut. He fisted his hands as the Breath swirled around him, concerned. He took in a shuddering breath as he tilted his head to the sky, opening his eyes slowly. He watched clouds move by slowly, trying to steady himsel--

“Son.”

He wasn’t ready.

John jolted, shoulders rising before he forced himself to relax his form, turning around slowly while keeping his gaze on the ground far down below him.

“Hi Dad.” He mumbled in a rush. “Uh, I got the Tumor. I’ll just be taking one captchalogue card and here’s your wallet…”

Still keeping his gaze lowered, John shoved a shaking hand forward, giving James--the Knight must’ve flew up when he saw John after the little meeting--his wallet. John could only stare at the black shoes of James and--

A hand grasped his wrist and he was suddenly pulled into a hug. John tensed up in surprise, about to move back--not because he didn’t want the hug, but it was because he didn’t deserve it. John wasn’t the son that James knew; he was different. He wasn’t the same--

“John...…” James cut through his thoughts with his tobacco-roughed voice, one arm wrapped around John and one hand cradling the back of the teen’s head. The Knight of Breath rested his chin on John’s head. “...You are still my son. I still love you. And I am very, very proud of you.”

John froze. He stilled in James’s hold. Dad smiled sadly at this and carefully carded a hand through John’s hair.

“I had a feeling you would think like this--you would think that I would hate you. That I would disown you because you might not be the son I know. But you must understand this, John,” The Egbert patriarch murmured sternly...before softening his voice, hugging the teen tightly to his chest, his blue cape gently moving in the wind. “...You are still my son. I will always love you. So don’t think--don’t you ever think for a moment--that I would hate you, that I wouldn’t love you. You’re my son and you’re safe. That’s what matters to me.”

...

...John bit his lip. He...haha, f**k...he didn’t he would have anymore tears to cry, but look at him now. Fat tears began to slowly roll down the Heir cheeks before he finally moved his arms up, hesitating for a moment, before wrapping his arms around his dad tightly, returning the hug. John’s shoulders shook as he buried his face into James’s God Tier shirt, and the Knight simply hugged back, slightly rocking back and forth in the air.

...It’s been awhile since John had been so happy.

~~

“You’re going off on your own?” James murmured worriedly.

Currently, John, James, Rox, Bro, and Davesprite were all gathered in front of the Castle. When Bro, Rox and Davesprite noticed that John’s eyes were a little red and puffy, they made no comment. John merely smiled tiredly at his father, scratching the back of his head anxiously.

“It’ll only be for a while.” John soothed. “I’ll meet up with you guys later.”

Bro crossed his arms, raising an eyebrow.

“Why do I have a feeling you’ll be leaving again after we meet up?” He drawled.

John shrugged helplessly, grinning sheepishly at the Thief.

“I bet it will only be for a while once again. Don’t worry too much, Bro!” He then turned to look at everyone else, eyebrows furrowing slightly as he looked at them all. “Do you guys remember what you’re doing now?”

Rox took James hand into her own and grinned brightly at John, reaching over to ruffle the teen’s hair.

“Jamie and I are gonna make babies!” She crowed.

Bro couldn’t quite hide the snort that came from his mouth while Davesprite choked on silent laughter, shoulders shaking. James went lobster-red as Rox hung onto his arm. John let out a nervous chuckle, amused.

“Er, that’s one way of putting it…” John could hear Jade howling with laughter in his head while Rose face-palmed. Dave was snickering, voice like little firecrackers in his head. “I’m leaving you with the ecto-babies since you know the most about it. And I’m sure Dad would like to go with you.”

John then turned to look over at Bro and Davesprite.

“One of you guys will go separately to either Jade or Dave. Balthazar, you can go with either Strider.” He received twin nods of understanding from the Striders and a pop of a spit bubble from Bal. “Those two will be in some danger while they do their thing and stuff. Also…”

John turned around when he heard footsteps--right on time--and saw a certain Prospitian walk up a hill. Black beady eyes darted around everyone’s faces before settling on John. Dressed in pastel, the Prospitian briskly walked forward, her hat missing, black sword drawn--there’s blood on it--in her hand. James and Rox tensed for a moment, Bro prepared to reach into his Strife Deck, and Davesprite drifted forward to stand beside John, spreading his wings out a little threateningly.

John noticed how the Prospitian seemed to falter in her steps for a moment, blood dribbling down the side of her head. The Heir huffed softly and moved forward, giving a look to the others that the Prospitian was a friend. When she saw John approaching, she straightened up and lowered her sword, free hand moving to the satchel on her side.

She rummaged through her bag for a moment before a green box was pulled out. She looked at John, gaze sharp as she flitted her eyes around his face. The Prospitians eyes finally connected with the Heir’s own, and she paused.

“...I am Parcel Mistress, here to deliver your mail to you.”

John smiled gently in return, surprising the Prospitian. He reached a hand out, offering, inclining his head politely at her.

“I’m John Egbert. It’s nice to meet you, Parcel Mistress, and thank you for delivering my mail to me.” He murmured.

PM blinked her eyes rapidly in surprise before lowering her gaze to his hand. She inclined her head before stabbing her blade down into the ground at her side, doll hand reaching out and clasping John’s. PM awkwardly shook John’s hand before pushing the green box into the Heir’s hands. She nodded stiffly at John.

“I must go and return to Prospit. Farwell, John Egbert.” She reported. She scanned John’s face again before she smiled tentatively at the teen. “...You are...the first who has ever thanked me and introduced himself. I hope to see you again, John Egbert.”

She pulled the sword at her side out of the ground, awkwardly waving at John before quickly jogging away, doll feat clacking softly against the ground. John watched PM go before quickly lifting his gaze up to the sky. He blinked his eyes rapidly in surprise when he saw the faint outline of the golden planet still in the sky.

‘...Jack...hasn’t attacked Prospit yet…?’ John wondered with confusion and some relief.

{It is a little odd…} Rose murmured. {...I have a feeling what you had told him before has given him second thoughts.}

‘Something I said? I don’t think Jack would really listen to me….’ John trailed off.

James quickly walked forward once PM was gone, placing a hand on John’s shoulder. He relaxed when he saw that the teen was unharmed or traumatized. Rox, Bro and Davesprite followed.

Who was that?” Davesprite asked, drifting over to float next to John’s other side, breaking through the Heir’s thoughts. “Was that...PM? The Anti-Jack Noir you wrote about in your journal or something?

John chuckled in response, looking down at the green box in his hands but directing his answer to Davesprite.

“Yep. That was her. We’ll probably see her later on…”

John balanced the box on one hand and moved his free hand to open the box. After opening the box, a blur shot out from the confines of the green box, landing on the ground with a soft thump. John grinned while Davesprite raised his eyebrows. Bal widened his eyes in surprise.

“That’s...isn’t that the bunny toy you left with my children back on LOWAS?” The salamander chirped.

John smiled amusedly, watching as the said bunny stood up, mismatched eyes looking up at the Heir. He could see parts of the bunny that was from Dave, Rose, and, finally, Jade. John had left his bunny toy on LOWAS with the child-manders since they seemed sad that the Heir was leaving. Looks like some shenanigans happened for Liv Tyler to end up in the green box.

“Yep. All I can say is that shenanigans happened for the bunny to get back here.” John explained slowly.

Liv Tyler tilted their head, gazing up at John only. Finally, they patted themself down before pulling something out--a note. John bent down and took the note, unfolding it carefully.

John!
Greetings chap. I have met you when you’ve zapped over between timelines, but it was only for a brief moment. I hope I’ll get to talk to you more when you finish the Scratch and all that balderdash. Also, I thank you for getting me connected with Roxy, Dirk, and Jane--those three are splendid people to chat with! I hope you’ll stay safe and that you’ll like this present. And, before I forget, there are a few weapons that are shrunk down for you to use. Green means grow and red means shrink! Good luck, John. I look forward to meeting you.

- J

John smiled softly at the forest-green words on the small note before looking down at Liv Tyler. The ravenet crouched down and waved at the bunny.

“Heya. So the note says you have some weapons...but could you give me the Quills of Echidna only? And could you enlarge the rest of the weapons? And...you can accompany my dad and...mom instead.”

John ignored the squeal from Rox--mom, he called me mom, ahahaha--and the surprised, embarrassed noise from James--Roxanne, please calm down--watching Liv Tyler pull out the quills in their shrunken form. The ravenet smiled thankfully at the bunny before standing, looking at Dad sheepishly.

“Sorry dad, but can I borrow one more captchalogue card from your wallet? Liv here is gonna make the quills big again for me to use on the Scratch.”

James ignored his embarrassment and handed a captchalogue card for John to take. John thanked his dad before looking over at Liv Tyler. Cradling the quills in his hand, the Heir placed them on the ground waited patiently for the bunny.

In a glow of green light, John watched as the quills grow, grow, and grow. Finally, it reached its original size and John captchalogged it with the wallet card. Liv Tyler quickly enlarged the rest of the weapons, and John studied them for a moment once they were back to their original sizes.

John picked up a sword, Royal Deringer, and turned to look at the Striders that were present.

“Uh...which one of you are going to Dave?”

Bro raised a hand lazily as John stood up with the sword.

“Give this to Dave, please. He’ll probably end up breaking it, but it’s his anyways.”

Bro raised and eyebrows before taking the sword from John, captchalogging it. John then picked up Ahab’s Crosshairs, hefting the blue-purple rifle and looking over at Davesprite, grinning at the sprite.

“Then I guess you’re gonna go over to Jade….?”

Davesprite nodded and grabbed the rifle, captchalogging it. John then turned his attention to...another sword? The ravenet blinked in surprise and picked up the blade. The craftsmanship looked Japanese. The blade was pitch black and glinted red when light reflected off of it at a certain angle. John hummed thoughtfully...before captchalogging it himself.

The name of the sword was...Executioner of Seishin. Interesting...

He had a feeling he would be giving it to someone soon.

John then pulled out the captchalogue card of the Tumor and bent down to scoop up the green box from where he had left it on the ground. The Heir placed the captchalogue card into the box and a note before sealing it. He looked over at Rox, who was already forming a small portal to Derse.

She smiled encouragingly at him and John grinned in thanks before gently tossing the green box into the portal. The package should be on Derse now in Rose’s room.

John finally sighed, relaxing a little. Now that everything was sorted out...the group had to split up and do their little jobs. Turning around to look at the others, he saw that they understood it was time to part ways too. Before he could speak, arms were wrapped tightly around him, hugging him gently.

“Be careful, Son.”

John softened his gaze and quickly returned the hug.

“Of course, Dad. You be safe too.” He mumbled into his dad’s chest.

“Awwww~!” Rox cooed before grabbing Bro and Davesprite, bringing them along as she also hugged James and John too. “Group hug, everyone~!”

John squeaked when he was squished further into his hug with his dad, but he let out a laugh, relaxing a little as he felt the warmth. Bro and Davesprite were doing awkward half-hugs while Rox was full out smothering everyone in the group hug. Bal was able to crawl onto John’s shoulder and hugged the teen’s head. Liv hugged John’s ankle.

Finally, after a few seconds, everyone released each other. John stepped back and let Bal and Liv get off of him first before he looked at everyone with a bright smile.

“See you guys later.”

He received nods and small smiles. Taking one last look--one last look at his family--John shut his eyes and breathed in deeply. He focused, feeling Space, Time, and Light stir inside him carefully.

He saw images pass through his mind--Light--and saw which timeline he had to be in--Time--and he finally pinpointed where he had to be warped to--Space. John opened his eyes and smiled.

And in a flash of green, he was gone.

~~

Bzap!

John waited for a moment, feeling his powers stir under his skin for a moment before relaxing. Carefully, John opened his eyes, taking in the familiar gray area. His gaze instantly zeroed in on the red chest on a black pedestal.

John blinked...before moving forward. The sound of his shoes hitting the ground echoed around the area. The place was quiet, devoid of life except for John. The Heir finally came to a halt in front of the pedestal. John slowly reached out and brushed his hand onto the surface of the chest, feeling the cool, smooth surface.

And then he found the latch; he clicked it open. Moving his fingers, he opened the red chest, a white glow briefly shown within before it died out slowly. John blinked and peered inside, smiling crookedly at the white, tablet-sized house that was there.

“Don’t you bring back memories…” John joked under his breath as he gazed down at the device.

The ravenet paused...before reaching inside. His hand slipped into one of the windows of the house. After pushing his hand through a fuzzy, prickling filter, he felt multiple things brush against his hand for a moment. John drew his hand back quickly and checked it. Nothing bad had happened to it.

John let out a shaky sigh, flitting his gaze back to the white SBURB symbol within the chest. He shut his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath before reaching back in. His fingers touched the window of the house and he waited.

And then…...he felt his form flicker.

John snapped his eyes open as images swirled past him for a moment. Suddenly he was standing in a random room. In the next handful of seconds, he was standing on a beach with waters that looked like LOLAR’s. And this continued for a while, finding himself floating or standing in different, yet a few familiar, places.

Suddenly, he found himself in the sky. He could hear seagulls in the background and he looked around thoughtfully, curious on where he was now--

John...?

The voice was tinged just slightly with something robotic.

The ravenet blinked in surprise and lowered his gaze down as he floated in the air. There was an island below him, the land covered in fresh, green grass. Near the edge of the island, a large, white house was present, but the Heir’s gaze was drawn to the figure that had called out to him.

He tilted his head curiously at the slightly familiar face he was greeted with. Quickly, he took in the white, spiky hair, the pointed shades, the black hoodie and black jeans. The stranger’s neck was visible, and John could tell that it was a mass of straight wires, metal, and mesh. Slowly, John grinned at the glowing, red eyes within the shades.

“Hal!” He chirped cheerily, recognizing the other from the designs that had been in his journal.

Hal’s glowing, red eyes darted along the surface of his shades. Slowly, the AR raised a metallic hand and waved at the teen, synthetic lips pulling into a small smirk of amusement.

Looks like you still need to get those ‘zappy powers’ under control.

John blinked his eyes in surprise at that.

“Oh...when did I talk about my zappy powers?”

Hal let out an amused laugh, rocking back on his heels. John could hear the joints of Hal’s body whirring. He was glad to see that the body was working.

Later on ya’ do.” Hal drawled. His red eyes gazed at John curiously. “By the wa--

“Hal, who are you talking to?” A very familiar voice said.

John blinked as...he watched himself walk out of the house to stand beside Hal. Dang, now he knows how Dave feels when his time traveling selves pop up in front of him. Oh, so this is the future where he’s gonna--

He felt a tingly feeling in his stomach. Darn, he was gonna teleport again! Oh, wait! John reached into his Strife Deck and pulled out Executioner of Seishin.

“Here, Hal! I think this is for you!” John let out in a jumble of words as he tossed the black and red katana at Hal.

The AR--or rather, android--blinked in surprsie and lifted his arm in time to catch the blade. John waved at his other-self in the future before he finally felt the tingly feeling consume his entire being.

Zap!

John had his eyes shut because of the bright light before he blinked his eyes open again. He glanced around and saw blue rocks...oil rivers. He concluded that he was on LOWAS.

...In front of his Denizen’s home.

John lifted his gaze to the massive temple before him. He no longer felt anything tingling within him, so he wouldn’t be zapping away any time soon. Perfect. He needed to meet his Denizen anyways.

Swallowing, John felt a breeze blow by...before he stepped forward and into his Denizen’s home.

~~

John slid down a small slope. He came to a stop at the bottom and dusted his God Tier pants off for a moment. The ravenet glanced around carefully.

The entire place was silent. There was no snoring, which meant that Typheus was awake. John hadn’t seen head nor tail of the giant beast yet, but he had a feeling he would be gazing into those sharp, silver eyes soon.

Sshhh…

...Welp. There he is now. John blinked as he saw loose rocks fall from the ceiling and hit against the ground in front of him. Smiling wryly, John slowly lifted his gaze up.

Blue met silver.

JOhn EgbErt.” His Denizen rumbled, voice slightly distorted as he quickly slithered out into the open, circling around John multiple times. His sharp teeth glinted in the light as he gazed down at the Heir. “WEll, wEll...thIs Is qUItE thE sUrprIsE…

John kneeled down and dipped his head down, showing respect for the other. He knew from his past that the Denizens’ really loved respect; it left them in better moods, making the great beasts easier to talk to.

“Typheus.” John greeted softly.

The Denizen inclined his head, lowering his top half so he could be level with John--Typheus’s head was as big as John’s teen body. If the Denizen already knew John by name, then the beast must have knowledge of the future already.

Typheus was as massive as usual, his green, snake-like body winding around the entire area. His torso was a pale white and his neck was short. The Denizen of LOWAS towered over John and hummed softly, studying John’s form before speaking once more.

LIft yOUr hEAd, YOUng HEIr.

John did as he was told, looking directly into the large, silver eyes of Typheus, but he still kept himself lowered onto one knee. Typheus grinned, eyes crinkling slightly as he moved closer to John.

I sEE thAt yOU ArE Of thE fUtUrE.” Typheus’s grin slowly dropped, and he somberly gazed at John. “......I Am trUly sOrry fOr yOUr lOss…

John smiled lopsidedly at that. He gazed into those silver eyes and saw genuine concern from the other.

“Well...I’m back to fix things, I guess. So it’s not too bad. But thank you anyways.”

Typheus hummed softly, the entire place echoing with the rumble that came from the Denizen’s chest.

StAnd Up, JOhn EgbErt.” John did as he was told, lifting his head to keep eye contact with the Denizen. “WAlk wIth mE.

John hurriedly caught up with the Denizen when the large beast began to slink down the wide halls. The Heir ignored how the ground shook slightly with each movement made by the Denizen and followed after the beast.

YOUr cOntrOl hAs gOnE bAck tO hOw It wAs In thE bEgInnIng. YOU nEEd thE OIl AgAIn tO rEgAIn thE fEElIng Of UsIng thE REtcOn pOwErs prOpErly.

John nodded, keeping his gaze ahead now. He eyed the designs of the walls and ceiling for a moment before looking over at Typheus sheepishly.

“Yep...that pretty much sums it up…” The teen gazed up into stormy, silver before lowering his gaze, shoulders slumping weakly. “...I’m sorry...for not being able to stop Lord English from destroying LOWAS in my previous life. I should’ve--”

DO nOt blAmE yOUrsElf fOr sOmEthIng yOU cOUld nOt stOp.” Typheus rumbled as he slithered down the long halls. “...YOU ArE bAck hErE In tImE tO fIx thIngs, ArEn’t you? And yOU hAvE nO nEEd tO sAy sOrry. COmIng bAck In tImE And dOIng thIngs OvEr AgAIn, sEEIng lOvEd OnEs whO wErE sUppOsEd tO bE dEAD--It Is nOt EAsy tO rEmAIn sAnE.

Typheus paused and lowered his upper-half so he could be in front of John, making eye contact with the teen. The Denizen’s slitted pupils sharpened as he scanned John’s face, his sharp teeth glinting barely in the dim lighting as he smiled thinly.

YOU dId EvErythIng yOU cOUld’vE dOnE In thAt tImElInE.” He hummed, keeping eye-contact with the Heir. “NOw, yOU hAvE A chAncE tO dO EvErythIng OncE mOre.

John stared back in surprise, seeing his own face reflected in those big eyes before he slowly nodded in response. Satisfied to see that John was no longer beating himself up, Typheus straightened his back and continued down the long hall, John flanking his side.

Finally, the two came upon a pit-like room. Without needing to be told, John floated out of the hallway and into the room, circling the area for a bit before landing in the center on the floor. Typheus watched from above, silver eyes glinting.

...JOhn EgbErt, hErE, yOU hAvE thE ChOIcE. COmplEtE my tAsk, Or gIvE Up yOUr lIfE.

John lifted his gaze up and stared into silver eyes, his blue eyes glowed and the Breath rolled off of his body, causing sky-blue light to dance along the walls of the room. The Heir grinned up at the Denizen, gaze determined.

“I accept your task.”

Typheus grinned at that, sharp teeth quickly put on display before the room shook slightly. John darted his gaze away and shifted on his feet slightly as oil quickly began to flood into the room. The ravenet swallowed as the oil splashed along the floor, covering it and soon reaching his shoes. He felt the cool wetness seep into his pants--it was now at his waist.

John froze up for a second, panicking. For a moment, he was back in his nightmares where he couldn’t move, free himself--he was useless. He couldn’t breathe--

{It’s okay, John.} Rose murmured in his head.

{We’re here, dude.} Dave said calmly, grounding John.

{Just zap this guck away, John!} Jade cheered.

...John smiled and took a deep breath--the oil was at his neck, but he was fine. He shut his eyes...and reached out. He felt the oil--slimy, cold, and unpleasant--and he felt deeper. He stretched his senses out and simply relaxed in the embrace of oil.

With one final breath, his head sunk below the oil.

Blue light flooded John’s vision. The suffocating pressure around him vanished and John drifted, eyes still shut. Slowly...after a moment of silence, John opened his eyes and saw that all of the oil in the room was gone. A rumbling chuckled broke his thoughts and he turned his head to see Typheus looking at him with a wide, sharp grin, silver eyes bright.

WEll dOnE, JOhn EgbErt.

And John...he smiled back, his grin as radiant as the Green Sun.

~~

John stood before the organ within Typheus’s home. His fingers brushed against the keys for a moment before he drew his hands back, looking down at them. John saw the dust on his fingers and looked up at the organ thoughtfully before taking a deep breath, cheeks puffing.

Exhaling harshly, Breath rushed past John’s lips and got rid of the coat of dust on the entire organ. The Heir coughed for a moment, waving a hand in front of his face as the dust slowly dispelled. Typheus let out a rumbling laugh behind John.

ThE OrgAn hAs nOt bEEn plAyEd fOr cEntUrIEs.” The Denizen said, voice a loud hiss of wind. “I hAvE fOrgOttEn tO kEEp It prEsEntAblE fOr gUEsts.

John nodded in understanding, glancing over his shoulder to grin at the Denizen before turning his attention back to the organ. The Heir gazed up at the towering instrument before he placed his fingers back onto the keys of the piano. He heard the Breath whisper in his ears.

Let us play.

Together.

Yes, let the pipes sing your tune, my Heir.

It is show time.

John smiled...and his fingers moved...and he began to play.

...

...A familiar, haunting melody flows through the pipes. The Breath helps the song spread and echo through the room. The melody reaches to all parts of LOWAS.

...But John is lost in his memories. He smiled as he continued to play, his mind filled with good memories and thoughts.

Things would be better this time. He would make sure of it.

When Typheus saw tears of joy slip down John’s face, he made no comment, simply watching the Breath dance around in the room they were both in. Outside, the fireflies drifted freely as the clouds were blown away by the Breath.

~~

WE shAll mOst lIkEly spEAk tO EAch OthEr In thE fUtUrE.” Typheus murmured, seeing John out of his home. The Denizen stopped at the entrance of his home, dipping his head down to be level with John. “DO stAy sAfE, YOUng HEIr.

John nodded, bowing his head politely to the other. Fireflies drifted lazily around the area, the sky a little brighter than what it was before. The Heir then straightened his back and smiled, waving exuberantly at the Denizen.

“Thank you so much for the help, Typheus! You rule!”

Typheus seemed to roll his eyes slightly at this, an amused smile on his dry lips as he leaned his torso against the entrance of his home. John suspected that if the Denizen were to have arms, they would be crossed as he leaned against the door lazily.

NOw dOn’t sAy thAt In frOnt Of my brOthErs And sIstErs, JOhn EgbErt. ThEy wOUld bE vEry jEAlOUs.” He said in a mock scolding tone.

John laughed softly at that before frowning thoughtfully.

“Uh...do they…?” He hesitantly trialed off.

Typheus sighed softly, Breath breezing past his lips.

YEs. ThEy knOw Of thE tImElInE thAt yOU hAvE cOmE frOm.

John nodded in understanding, rocking back onto his heels for a moment as he stood on the steps of Typheus’s home. Huh...so some parts of the game remember. John furrowed his eyebrows for a moment before shaking his head mentally. He lifted his head and gazed happily at Typheus.

“Well, thanks again, Typheus, for your help. I’ll be going now.” He waved goodbye.

Typheus nodded, gazing up at the sky for a moment. He eyed the fireflies that flew around lazily...and he smiled wistfully.

...I wAs OncE jEAlOUs Of thE fIrEflIEs--It wAs thE rEAsOn why I trAppEd thEm In thE clOUds.” He suddenly explained. “ThEy All shOnE lIkE thE stArs whIlE I, A hIdEOUs bEAst, rEmAInEd chAInEd tO thE grOUnd; I dId nOt hAvE wIngs, sO I dId nOt fEEl frEE.

Typheus lowered his gaze to see John’s surprised expression. The Denizen chuckled before his lips turned downwards into a solemn frown, his silver eyes distant and he stopped leaning against the entrance of his home, straightening his back as he looked back up into the sky.

...I wAs A fOOlIsh chIld bAck thEn, bUt I hAd rEgrEttEd cAstIng my spEll On thE fIrEflIEs. HOwEvEr, I nO lOngEr hAd thE AbIlIty tO plAy thE OrgAn--Only AnOthEr BrEAth UsEr cOUld frEE thE fIrEflIEs And gEt rId Of thE OIl.

John let realization dawn on his face.

“...So you resented other people who could manipulate Breath.” He whispered.

Typheus merely nodded before he lowered his gaze to John once more. The Heir frowned with concern for the Denizen, about to open his mouth to--

...

...Typheus suddenly bowed down in front of John, causing the teen to widen his eyes with shock and splutter with panic.

“T-Typheus!? Wait, what are you--?!”

YOU ArE A wOrthy wIEldEr Of BrEAth, And I rEspEct yOU fOr thAt.” Typheus said as he kept his head bowed in front of John. “YOU AlsO hAvE my thAnks fOr cOrrEctIng my mIstAkEs.

John stared at Typheus with surprise before finally finding his words again, gaze softening.

“...Please don’t bow. Instead...uh…” John shyly scuffed his shoe on the ground as Typheus raised his head with a questioning look. “I...would rather you be my friend.”

When John looked up into silver eyes, he saw the amused twinkle within the Denizen’s irises. Typheus let out a thunderous laugh, the sound echoing around the area. When the Denizen regained composure of himself, he smiled toothily at John.

CErtAInly, JOhn.” John grinned at the fact that the Denizen was just using his first name only now. Typheus huffed amusedly. “I wIll bE yOUr frIEnd.

John grinned widely at this, finally moving forward and jumping up. Typheus made a noise of surprise when John...hugged him--well, partially hugged him, since John was so small and Typheus was so big. The Denizen felt a chuckle of amusement rumble in his chest, but he allowed the Heir to hug him.

John released the other and smiled one last time at Typheus before backing away.

“Bye Ty!”

As a blue glow surrounded John, the Heir caught the surprised...and then amused smile from Typheus.

GOOd lUck, JOhn.” He replied.

The blue light of John’s Retcon powers consumed him completely. His next destination…

Damara Megido.

Zap.

~~

“こんにちは! ぼくの名前はエグバート ジョンです。” John smiled gently at a certain Burgundy Blood. He had learned Japanese from the troll herself in his previous life. “どぞよろしく メギドさん。”

John was currently in a green room. Like...everything was green--the furniture, the tables, the ceiling, and the walls. John was in Doc Scratch’s domain--but, to be more specific, he was in the room of a young version of the Handmaid.

Damara Megido blinked her eyes rapidly in surprise before glaring at John, gazing at the Heir’s offered hand warily. After a moment of hesitation, she quickly brought out her needles, raising and pointing them at John as she shot off the edge of her bed--which makes sense because John just suddenly appeared in her room in a flash of blue light. Energy snapped along the tips of her wands, ready to strike with them.

“なんでここにいますか?” She hissed, glancing around her room quickly before looking back at John again.  Why was this strange person here!?

John grinned sheepishly, blue eyes glowing softly as he raised his hands by his head as a sign of surrender. He allowed himself to be backed up to a wall as Damara continued to point her needles threateningly at him

“まあ、行きましょメギドさん!” John said cheerfully, eyes peering into burgundy ones.

The scowl on Damara’s lips faltered, and her wands lowered slightly. She looked at John in disbelief. She scanned the Heir briefly...finding no weapons on him. The Burgundy Blood carefully lowered her wands a bit more.

“...何を言っていますか...?” She nearly whispered, eyes wide and confused.  What the he** was this guy saying...?

John softened his gaze. The Heir spread his arms wide, as he looked at her carefully. Damara looked tired, deep bags under her wary eyes. He saw the multiple, pale lines crisscrossing her forearms. The green skirt and suit top she was wearing looked more like a slave uniform.

“...あなたは自由になってます。” He said softly, gently.

She continued to look at John with disbelief, but her wands lowered carefully. She flicked her gaze around the room--she must’ve thought Doc Scratch was gonna pop into the room suddenly--before settling her eyes back onto John.

“でも...なぜ...?” She whispered, finally lowering her wands completely, shoulders slumping with exhaustion.

After years of being alone. She suddenly...out of nowhere...she can be…...free? Just like that? No strings attached? Damara gazed at John with furrowed eyebrows, suspicious.

John merely smiled, expression gentle. He carefully reached a hand out...and touched hers. Damara’s hand twitched away for a moment, fingers tightening around her wands--but then she looked into his eyes…and saw the genuine care in them.

“あなたは私の友だちです。” John whispered softly. “あなたは自由になってます。”

...John had repeated his statement from before. Damara was...truly...free? She wouldn’t be forced back into her room by Doc Scratch ever again?

John’s hand touched hers again, and, this time, she allowed him to take her hands into his gentle grasp. Damara shakingly stored her wands away and let John smoothed her fingers out carefully, untensing them. John smiled brightly at Damara.

“あなたは自由になってます。” He repeated, voice firm.

...

You are free.

...

...Damara blinked...and blinked again. Red filled her vision and...o-oh...she was...crying? The Bergundy Blood blinked in surprise, but she didn’t move her hands from John’s grasp to wipe her face--the Heir’s hands were warm, gentle, and comforting

John nearly flailed for a moment, shocked that Damara started to cry all of a sudden. John let one of his hands move away from hers and grabbed the end of his hood, using the cloth to wipe away the red tears that were leaking out of her eyes. Damara saw this through her tears...and couldn’t help but let out a weak laugh.

This person...who had come to save her…he was...so nice.

Damara didn’t think she would’ve been able to bask in the feeling of kindness ever again…

John allowed her to shed her tears, murmuring words of comfort

~~

Once Damara was done crying, John noted...that she regained her confidence. The two are now sitting on the bed because crying can be quite exhausting. Anyways, while gaining her confidence was good...it lead to...er...slightly suggestive moments.

“ねえ~おまえはイケメンだね~” She purred, tipping John’s chin up with her fingers, smirking up into blue eyes.

Her eyes were puffy and red around the edges, but she felt better--alive. Now that she had calmed down, she felt confident to tease John a little.

John blinked his eyes in surprise before blushing slightly, leaning back quickly. The teen quickly took Damara’s hand instead and eyed her nervously. The troll laughed softly in response to the Heir’s red face, patting the teen’s arm comfortingly.

“Joke. Just joke, John Egbert. Blush very cute though.” She said in broken English.

John blinked his eyes rapidly in surprise. He gently rubbed his thumb over her knuckles, a comforting gesture to the weary troll.

“Wait...you can speak English?” He asked.

“Some. Can understand lots. No speak much.” Damara furrowed her eyebrows for a moment, scowling. “B*****d taught me many languages. No fun.”

John slowly nodded in understanding before smiling gently at her. He stood up slowly but he continued to hold her hands in his. Damara watched him curiously, letting him hold her hands.

“We’re getting out of here now.” He explained.

Damara made a noise of surprise but she stood up, inclining her head at the Heir in slight confusion.

“...How…?”

John grinned, his form starting to glow blue already.

“Zappy powers.” He stated simply.

Damara raised a dubious eyebrow, but she lowered her gaze to watch as the blue light slowly enveloped her form too. John smiled fondly at the awed look on her face.

“Hold on tight.” He then warned as the tingly feeling got stronger. “Here we go!”

Zap!

Blue light surrounded the two of them as they disappeared from the green room. The floor was gone beneath both of their feet. As Damara clung to John, the Heir himself searched for the right “moment” to drop Damara off. Finally, John grinned as he stopped at a certain point in time in the future.

Zap!

“--and I--HOLY F**K, EGBERT!?” A voice shouted in shock.

John continued to hold Damara’s hand, sending a blinding smile to a certain Candy Red Blood.

“Hi, Karkat!”

Karkat, in the future technically, stared at John with shock. The Cancer troll, dressed in his black t-shirt and gray jeans, was currently sitting at a circular table, a grub computer open with a few faces on the screen. He must be having a video chat with someone.

John glanced around briefly and found that he was in a room on the Meteor--the area looked like a livingroom. Light flashed outside, causing John to deduct that the Meteor was already on its 3 year long journey. John then turned to look back at Karkat, a wide grin on his lips.

“Hi buddy! Take care of Damara for me, will you? She's actually a real sweetie when you talk to her.” John quickly explained.

John then turned to Damara, holding her hands one last time as he gazed into her eyes.

“Don’t worry, Karkat’s a nice dude, I can vouch for him. The others on this Meteor will be the same too, alright?” He said with a smile. “You’ll get along with them, I’m sure.”

Damara tilted her head at him, the swirling horns on her head following the motion.

“Where you go?”

“I must go back to Doc Scratch.”

Damara’s hands instantly tightened their grip on John’s, her eyes widening with shock and horror.

“No. No, no, no! けつめどやろう!” She barked, gaze narrowed and tone sharp. “B*****d will hurt you! He--!”

John smiled gently at Damara, blue eyes gazing into her burgundy ones.

“Hey...hey...I’ll be fine.” He comforted, moving one of his hand up to brush a strand of hair out of her face, smiling softly. “You’ll see.”

Damara looked at John with disbelief, looking a bit anguished before she squeezed her eyes shut. Finally, she lowered her head and thumped her forehead lightly against John’s chest. She felt the rise and fall of the Heir’s chest with each inhale and exhale he had.

“...You come back, f**ker. Soon.” She finally mumbled, releasing John’s hands after one last squeeze.

John smiled at this before turning to look at Karkat. The Candy Red Blood was out of his seat, standing a few feet away from John. Karkat was looking at John was a scowl.

“Egbert...idiot, so this was what you were pestering me about all those chats ago.” The Cancer troll huffed, crossing his arms. “You--future you--had recently gone on your little mission with the sprite version of the b***ebag Strider. You and your shenanigans are making my f**king thinkpan throb.”

John merely grinned sheepishly at the other and pat Damara’s shoulder comfortingly.

“Sorry for making you worry, Karkat.”

The Cancer trolled waved a hand in the hair in response, rolling his eyes slightly. Karkat then looked over at Damara, squinting his eyes for a moment.

“...I think Aradia can share her clothes with you. You look like her size.” He grumbled.

Damara lifted an eyebrow, not knowing who this ‘Aradia’ was, but she nodded nonetheless. She really wants to get out of the green clothes she was currently wearing. Karkat then turned to look back at John and scowled.

“You f**king idiot.” He growled. “You haven’t completely rested. Your blood pressure is a little low.”

John raised his eyebrows in surprise, shifting slightly as Karkat stomped forward.

“How can you te--?”

Karkat’s clothes rippled...and changed. John widened his eyes in surprise as Karkat’s t-shirt became long-sleeved and a blood red. His pants also became red...a cape unraveled into the open…and clear, red butterfly wings expanded out in the open.

...

...John blinked in surprise, mouth dropped open with shock.

A Knight of Blood.

“You…...you’re in...God Tier form.” He stated.

Karkat snorted, wings fluttering behind his back.

“Nice observation, Captain Obvious.” The Cancer troll snarked. But then his sneer suddenly fell and he looked at John with a softened gaze. “...Idiot. It’s thanks to you that I was able to achieve God Tier.”

John blinked his eyes rapidly. He was...so happy. The Heir laughed brightly and darted forward, hugging Karkat tightly. The Candy Red Blood snarled in response, flailing in John’s arms.

“Argh--! YOU F**KING N**K-LICKER, GET OFF OF ME!” He roared while Damara let out a small snort of amusement.

“S-Sorry…” John shakily responded, causing Karkat to pause in his flailing. “I’m...just...s-so glad…”

Karkat blinked and looked down, seeing the tears that were rolling down John’s face all of a sudden. The Heir’s face was scrunched up, smile weak on his lips.

“Woah, woah, woah!” Karkat raised his eyebrows at John. “What the sh**!? Why are you crying?!”

John didn’t respond, simply hugging Karkat close. Karkat furrowed his eyebrows at this before scowling.

“...Hey, you better not be blaming yourself for the previous timeline! That sh** wasn’t your fault! It was Jack Noir!” John opened his mouth to protest, but Karkat stubbornly barged through. “Plus, I’m a god now, so what should I complain about anymore? F**king nothing is the d**n answer!”

Karkat huffed before reluctantly papping John’s face. The Heir blinked in surprise when a gray hand gently papped his cheek. The Cancer troll's finger's were gentle, rubbing away the tears that were slowing from his eyes. Karkat blushed and looked off to the side at John’s gaze.

“...Stop crying already, you little sh**.” The Knight of Blood grumbled, wings fluttering behind himself.

John looked at Karkat with shock...before slowly smiling, a laugh bubbling out of his throat as he hugged the Knight one last time before releasing.

“Thanks, buddy.”

Karkat scoffed, looking over at Damara, who had been silent throughout the entire exchange.

“Whatever. I just better see you later on once you’re done with your f**king shenanigans.” He grouched.

John merely laughed, poking playfully at the Candy Red Blood. Karkat swatted John’s hands away instantly. The Heir sighed and then turned to look at Damara, a gentle smile on his lips.

“I’ll be back...so don’t worry about me.”

Damara squinted her eyes at John...before huffing, crossing her arms.

“Stay alive.” She practically ordered.

John laughed at this as a blue glow started the surround him. He waved at the two as his Retcon powers slowly began to send him away.

“Bye!”

Zap!

The blue light consumed John’s vision once again. The ravenet sighed as he moved back through the “pages”, going back to the “moment” where he left with Damara. John finally felt the floor under his feet once more...and he slowly opened his eyes.

John was back in Damara's green room. He surveyed the area, finding that nothing was missing--except the troll who was supposed to be in the room. John then heard a crash outside; the ravenet darted his gaze to the door and tensed up slightly.

Slowly, the Heir approached the door and grabbed the green handle. Without anymore hesitation, he opened the door and slipped outside into a green hall. John glanced around quickly before shutting the door behind himself.

He heard another crash and walked down the hall, following the loud noise. He heard cursing from...a very familiar voice. John raised his eyebrows in surprise. Was that Jack? The teen cautiously walked down the hall until he came to a large, open room--a living room? And--OH SH**, IT’S ON FIRE!

John brought his hands up and summoned the Breath. The Breath quickly surged forward and extinguished the flames that was eating away at some of the furniture that was there. Once all the flames were gone, John found who the culprit was for setting off the fires.

It wasn’t Jack. It was actually...Spades Slick? John blinked dumbly as the Dersite snarled at him. The Heir noted that Spades’s suit looked a little roughed up. Had he been fighting? What was--?

“Goodness, Spades. You shouldn’t destroy my things.” A smooth voice entered the area.

Spades snarled and turned his attention to the other being in the room, snapping open the lighter in his hand and closing it with a click.

“You’re not the f**king boss of me!” He growled.

“Perhaps not.” The voice responded calmly. “But why don’t you busy yourself with that bowl of candy there instead, hm?”

John turned his gaze to the right and saw...a person with a cue ball for a head. The ravenet shifted as he studied the newcomer for a moment, taking in the neat, white suit, green undershirt, and white tie. Doc Scratch was a rather finely dressed person, but that didn’t exactly matter to the Heir.

...What mattered to John at the moment was the fact that he hadn’t sensed the First Guardian until he spoke.

Spades spat more hateful words before stomping over to the said bowl of candies that looked a lot like arrows. Doc Scratch then seemed to turn his attention to John, causing the Heir to straighten his back slightly.

“Apologies. He’s quite rude, isn’t he?” Doc Scratch said with amusement curling around his voice. “Do take a seat, John Egbert. I will be with you in a moment.”

John flickered his gaze to Spades for a moment before looking back at Doc Scratch. The Heir then noted that the First Guardian was standing next to a typewriter--it was the discussion with Rose before the Lalonde had gone Grimdark.

John bit his lower lip at this before glancing around the room carefully. Finally, the teen found a small chair to sit on. The Heir hovered across the room, and sat down on the cushioned chair that survived the small fire. He awkwardly waited for Doc Scratch to finish his conversation as Spades glared hatefully at him from across the room.

“I am now free for a chat,” Doc Scratch suddenly said, walking towards the chair across from John--had time passed by that quickly? “Sorry for keeping you waiting.”

John gazed at the First Guardian warily, hands on his lap as he watched the First Guardian move around the room.

“It’s no problem…” The Heir mumbled.

No need to be violent when the enemy wasn't in the mood to fight back.

Doc Scratch hummed softly at that, moving around the room. He warped a table into the center of the room, along with plates, cups and cookies. The First Guardian, warped a teapot into his hands, grabbing a cup and filling it with some sort of hot liquid. Doc Scratch then stepped forward and stood in front of John, offering the cup of…something; it was a red-brown hue.

John hesitantly took the cup and softly thanked the First Guardian. Doc Scratch hummed softly as he then walked back across from John. Before sitting down, he looked over at Spades, who was still eating the neverending bowl of candies.

“Spades, why don’t you go to the guest rooms for now? I wish to speak with my new guest alone, please.”

Spades growled lowly, but he surprisingly said nothing in return and stomped out of the room. John glanced down at the steaming cup of something in his hands before hesitatingly taking a sip.

...It was sweet...and tasted like strawberries and vanilla.

John blinked in idle surprise before lowering the cup from his lips and setting it down on the mini plate on the table. The ravenet lifted his gaze to Doc Scratch, who was sighing softly before looking over at John--well...it looked like it; the cue ball head kinda swiveled in John’s direction.

Doc Scratch sighed again, taking a seat on the cushioned, green chair. He placed one leg over the other, propping his elbows up on the armrests as he laced his fingers onto his lap. John cautiously watched as the First Guardian inclined his cue ball head at him.

“Now then...let us talk, John Egbert,” John could hear the sly smile in the other's voice. “You and I, the Heir of Breath that has gone back in time, and me, the First Guardian and Servant of Lord English.

Chapter Text

==> Reader: Watch how the conversation shall unfold.

John’s lips thinned into a grim line at that while Doc Scratch leaned back comfortably in his seat, the First Guardian seemed a little amused.

“But first…” Doc Scratch paused for a moment for emphasis before continuing to speak. “...I do not appreciate the fact that you’ve stolen my Handmaid.”

“I was not aware she belonged to anyone.” John replied back instantly in a chilling tone, blue eyes glowing for a split second.

Doc Scratch chuckled at this, still staying where he was--but John caught the spark of green the snapped along the First Guardian’s body. The other was...irritated, but that did not deter John.

“Damara Megido is the Handmaid of my Master, Lord English." Doc Scratch stated flatly. "I do not think--”

“Damara Megido has her rights to live like a normal, living being.” John cut in sharply, feeling the Breath wisp off of his body, the Aspect whispering in agreement as blue light shimmered over his pale skin. “You have no control over her.

Silence reigned over the room as John stopped glowing. And then...Doc Scratch uncrossed his legs and stood up smoothly, gloved hands now clasped behind his back. The First Guardian stepped away from his chair before moving his right hand from his back, fiddling with the tie around his neck.

“...How pompous of you.” He murmured as he looked away from John. “Are you really going to go against my Master’s wishes?”

The First Guardian’s voice was pleasant, but John could hear the threat that was laced into the sentence, challenging the Heir. John smiled in return, but the action didn’t reach his icy, blue eyes. The ravenet laced his fingers together on his lap, watching the First Guardian closely.

“You already know that I’ve gone to war with Lord English. I’m pretty sure I’ve gone against his wishes already.” John stated calmly, straightening his back in his seat.

Doc Scratch huffed a laugh at that, the sound fake, as he began to unbutton his suit top. Once all the buttons were undone, Doc Scratch shrugged his suit top off, draping it over his right forearm and keeping his left hand behind his back as he walked over to his seat. The First Guardian neatly placed his coat onto the top of the chair before clasping both of his hands behind his back, turning to look at John, only dressed in his green undershirt and white slacks.

John’s gaze flickered down to the holster that was now revealed at Doc Scratch’s hip, a pearl-white pistol resting within the holder. But then the Heir raised his eyes back up to the First Guardian’s face, gaze calm, unthreatened by the gun that was out in the open. Doc Scratch held an air of amusement at this, his irritation dying down slightly as he then walked around the table towards John.

“I suppose that is true, John Egbert.” He paused beside John’s chair, causing the Heir to lift his gaze up to look at the First Guardian. “...But that does not make me any less angry with you.

Doc Scratch’s voice became a little sharp, chilling--

Swish, click!

...

...John’s blue eyes gazed up at a reflection of his face on the cue ball’s surface. The ravenet felt the cold, unforgiving press of the barrel of a gun on his chin. Doc Scratch held the pistol, safety off, as he pushed it against John’s chin with his right hand, holding his index finger steadily over the trigger.

...However...John had his Hammer of Enlil out, the flat surface of the bulky part of the weapon pressed against the side of Doc Scratches head; the Heir’s finger was on the trigger of the gun-hammer.

John’s face showed no fear. And Doc Scratch’s expression was, of course, unreadable. The Heir was still seated while Doc Scratch towered over the teen threateningly. Silence reigned in the room for a moment...before they both lowered their weapons.

“Hmmm…” Doc Scratch hummed as he clicked the safety back on, placing his pistol back into its holster. “You have good instincts. I had thought I had come off non threateningly, but you had sensed that I would bring my weapon out on you.”

John huffed as he captchalogged his weapon, gazing up at the First Guardian. The ravenet leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms.

“Years of battle with unpredictable enemies does that to you. However,” John raised an eyebrow at the First Guardian. “You weren’t going to pull the trigger in the end.”

“Ah. You caught me.” Doc Scratch chuckled, the sound surprisingly genuine, agreement before walking back to the table, gesturing to the contents on it. “Cookie? It’s shortbread with a jam center.”

John wasn’t even phased by the abrupt change in topic and merely waved a hand in the air, politely declining the offer. The Heir watched as Doc Scratch clasped his gloved hands behind his back again, the omniscient being humming softly. The First Guardian then stalked towards John, circling the teen’s chair.

“...I’m curious on what you wish to do, John Egbert.” He said thoughtfully. “You are ‘something impossible’, meaning that I have no exact knowledge of you.” The First Guardian paused in his walk at the right of John’s chair, swiveling his head to look at the Heir. “This means...I have no way of predicting how you will change this story. So, may I inquire what you will be doing?”

John turned and lifted his head to look at Doc Scratch’s general face area, expression blank. The Heir then sighed, shoulders dropping slightly.

“...Is it not obvious?” John asked softly.

“Your main, true goal is to get your friends and family members out of this mess, yes? But I am more interested in what you will do…” Doc Scratch leaned in a bit. “...with my Master, Lord English.”

John opened his mouth…...and closed it. Defeating Lord English was obviously what he wanted to do. But to John, it seemed that Doc Scratch was asking for something else. The ravenet furrowed his eyebrows, gazing up at the First Guardian.

“...Why are you asking me this?”

Doc Scratch hummed.

“Why am I indeed? When all of the answers are obvious?” Doc Scratch walked forward and stood in front of John. “To answer your question--I just wish to hear it from you.

John narrowed his gaze.

“...I just want to keep my family safe and let them live in peace. I wish to defeat Lord English.” He stated firmly, gazing up at the blank surface of the cue ball head. “That is what I wish to do.

Doc Scratch seemed to stare at John, head cocked to the side slightly.

“...I see.” He simply said before a smirk seeped into his next words. “I find it amusing that you think you can stop the destruction of your universe. My Master is not an enemy that will simply be defeated.”

John blinked and watched as Doc Scratch then stepped away, walking back to his own seat. The ravenet frowned slightly, thoughts jumbled in his head for a moment before speaking.

“...Why is Lord English your Master?” He asked.

Doc Scratch paused, back facing the Heir as his head tilted to the side slightly. Hands still clasped behind his back, the First Guardian responded without turning around to look at John.

“Why do you ask that?” His voice pleasant as usual.

John shifted in his seat, back pressed against the chair as he watched Doc Scratch’s back.

“...You really don’t look like the type to seek death. To be honest…” He paused for a moment before continuing. “...You just seem to work really hard to please people around you.” John murmured softly. “...Are you only wishing to die to make Lord English...happier? Or...”

John furrowed his eyebrows when he saw those gloved hands twitch just a bit behind the First Guardian’s back. The ravenet’s gaze softened and he moved forward a bit to get out of his seat.

“...Are you...lonely?”

Bzap!

Loose papers whipped up into the air, kicked up by the disturbance in the air. John suddenly found his face yanked upwards, a gloved hand gripping his chin harshly as his head knocked against the cushioned chair behind him. Green sparks rolled off of Doc Scratch’s body as he towered over John. The teen grunted as his head was locked up in an uncomfortable position; the ravenet winced as a spark of green prickled the side of his face.

S i l e n c e .” Doc Scratch rasped out, a black aura also starting to form around his body with the sparks of green.

But then Doc Scratch seemed to get a tight grip on his rage and he took in a deep breath--or that’s what it sounded like he was doing. The cue ball head was tilted downwards so he could look at John, green sparks crackling along his form.

“...My service is simply for Lord English only. I only tolerate others.” He finally gritted out.

John merely blinked as his chin was still grasped tightly. The ravenet was a bit startled by Doc Scratch’s change in character--the Heir didn’t think he would snap the First Guardian’s control that easily. John then slowly softened his gaze.

“......I am sorry that I have offended you.” John finally murmured, making no move to get out of the other’s hold. The ravenet felt some sort of...emotion rolling off of Doc Scratch besides fury. “It was just something that I noticed--”

“You are spouting quite a lot of nonsense, John Egbert.” Doc Scratch quickly cut in, clutching John’s chin tighter. “I don’t see how this topic of my life is so important.”

John pinched his eyebrows together, frowning slightly.

“...It’s just...why are you so loyal to Lord English? From what I had heard from Rose in my past life, you are manipulative, but you’re not exactly evil. All you’ve done was for the sake of Lord English.” John paused, blue eyes flickering along the surface of Doc Scratch’s face. “...Lord English is just this powerful guy who doesn’t give a sh** about his surroundings--he killed his own sister. Why would you follow a guy like that? Don’t you have...something you want to do?”

“......” Doc Scratch was silent.

The green sparks on his body died out a bit and the black aura faded from view. His shoulders raised for a moment with tension...before he relaxed. The First Guardian dipped his head down slightly, and John imagined that if Doc Scratch were to have eyes, they would be looking at the floor.

“...You talk as if you know what I feel. To be born billions of years ago with no one to tell me my purpose in life even though I have limitless knowledge of the things that are possible.” Doc Scratch murmured. “Not one person could understand what I was to do, and for a moment, neither did I.”

John grunted when his head was jerked up a little and he had to move his hands on the armrests to push himself up slightly so his head wouldn’t be ripped off from his body. Doc Scratch chuckled humorlessly as he leaned in towards John’s face.

“You, a mere child compared to me, would not understand. Why should I listen to you when you act as if you can understand what I’m feeling?” He nearly hissed.

“I’m not saying that I understand. I’m trying to understand.” John stated flatly--d**n his jaw was starting to ache--his blue eyes narrowing slightly. “What did Lord English do to earn your loyalty?”

Doc Scratch was silent again...before he spoke, shoulders hunching slightly.

“...For years I was a First Guardian of Alternia, I protected it so it could play its roll into this story. And then…Lord English came along--he noticed me. He realized my existence--my usefulness. I had purpose with my knowledge and power--I was overjoyed with this fact. Now do you understand, John Egbert?” Doc Scratch sounded like he was sneering now. “You say that I am nice because I am lonely--because I want to please those around me. And I will not deny it.”

Doc Scratch’s grip loosened a bit on John’s chin. His shoulders lowered and he gazed at John, a spark of green briefly flashing across his face.

“I...am an excellent host.” He said. “What I want, John Egbert, is for my Master to be happy--because he had done the same for me.

John blinked rapidly in surprise, raising his eyebrows before letting out a soft laugh. Doc Scratch tensed barely at this and tightened his grip on John’s chin once more, green sparks crackling off of his body dangerously.

“Do you think my purpose is  f u n n y , John Egbert?”

The Heir quickly stopped laughing, but he smiled softly up at Doc Scratch.

No way! Not at all. It’s just,” John smiled lopsidedly at the First Guardian. “If it’s friends you want, then I can be your friend.”

Doc Scratch’s shoulders lowered with surprise and his grip loosened slightly.

“...Are you--as your friend so eloquently put it--’f**king with me’?” He finally murmured.

John let out a nervous laugh at that, wincing a bit when his jaw gave an aching throb.

“Hey, if you have so much knowledge, you should already know that I, John Egbert, am a lover--not a fighter. While I do get satisfaction in beating up anyone who hurts my family, I don’t actually like fighting.” The Heir said cheerily. “And, uh….you don’t exactly seem like a bad guy--I mean, you did end up tricking Rose and Dave to their deaths in my previous timeline, but you did that for Lord English. Also...I…”

John paused, a frown drifting across his face for a moment. He then laughed nervously up at the face of Doc Scratch.

“I dunno...I think your life has meaning, dude. Lord English doesn’t give many f**ks about the people around him. Like you said before, Lord English wishes for the destruction of the universe--but that doesn’t mean you have to die for him.” John’s voice raised slightly, his tone a bit sharp. “So he was the first person who made you feel happy? Well, how about I make you happy 24/7? Lord English is a d**k, and I don’t care if he’s your d**n Master.”

John then lowered his voice, feeling the gloved hand on his chin slacken even more. The ravenet’s blue eyes glowed slightly as he gazed up at Doc Scratch, the azure light dancing across the white surface of the other’s face.

“...You don’t want to be friends with me? Fine. If you yourself wants to hurt my friends? I’ll kick your a** even though you’re a First Guardian. But if you want to be my friend?” John shrugged, the movement awkward since his chin was still being held hostage. “Sure. We can be friends. But, uh, even if you become my friend, I’m still gonna kick Lord English’s a**.”

Doc Scratch was silent--possibly pondering. Meanwhile, John was mentally slapping himself silly. Where thE F**K WAS HE COMING FROM!? ASKING MR. DOC OVERPOWERED IF HE WANTS TO BE FRIENDS!? Heck, even Jade, Rose, and Dave in John’s head were laughing while also making their concern for the ravenet known.

{John, it’s so adorable that you’re making friends and all--BUT HAHAHA, OH MY GOG, WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING ANYMORE!?} Jade howled with laughter.

‘I don’t know!?’ John shouted in his brain, internally freaking out while he kept a poker face on the outside as Doc Scratch continued to look at him. ‘My brain decided to derp out or something! I mean, while Doc Scratch did manipulate a lot of peeps, he was doing that for Lord English, right!? So I just decided to think he was a bit like Damara!? Slightly manipulated into working for Lord English!? I don’t know!?’

{Oh John.} Rose chuckled softly. {You have a saint-like heart as usual.}

{Yep.} Was all Dave said after a bark of laughter. {You always try to see the good side of things.}

A huff of breath was what brought John’s attention back to Doc Scratch. The First Guardian leaned in as he held John’s chin within his gloved grasp. John calmly gazed back at the blank surface of the First Guardian’s face, unflinching even though his nose was almost touching the cue ball head. Doc Scratch inclined his head; John suspected that if the other had eyes, they would be scanning his face.

...

...Tense seconds ticked by...ever so slowly…...before Doc Scratch let out a drawn out sigh. He chuckled breathily as he leaned away from John, releasing the teen’s chin as he stepped back slightly.

“...You are certainly a strange one, John Egbert.” He finally murmured.

John lifted an eyebrow, moving a hand up to rub his jaw--d**n Doc Scratch’s grip was strong--before gazing sharply at the First Guardian. Doc Scratch hummed again, turning around and walking away and--wait...is that...John’s Show Time tune he plays on the piano? Was Doc Scratch humming his tune? John has no time to think about it further when Doc Scratch spoke again.

“My loyalties are still with Lord English.” John leaned back in his chair slightly at that, shoulders slouching slightly as he sighed. However, Doc Scratch continued to speak. “...But I have never been able to make my Master happy.”

John perked up in confusion and surprise as Doc Scratch continued.

“My Master is filled with so much anger. It displeases me.” The First Guardian paused for a moment before continuing. “...I wish to get rid of his irrational hatred.”

John blinked his eyes rapidly in surprise. Doc Scratch turned around again and walked back to where the Heir was still seated.

“I would like to see how you shall turn this story upside down, John Egbert.” Doc Scratch lowered his head close to the Heir’s face, an amused lilt in his voice. “And since I would like to see, I shall do this.”

John blinked as Doc Scratch removed the glove on his right hand. The First Guardian’s hand was human-like, the skin a snow-white color. The Heir raised an eyebrow in surprise, about to raise his own right hand--like, were they shaking hands in agreement? John’s hand was about to move up from the armrest--

Doc Scratch moved his left hand and grabbed John’s right shoulder. The Heir grunted in surprise when he was roughly pushed into the couch, pinned to the chair. John lifted his gaze up to Doc Scratch and narrowed his eyes when he saw green flames lick the white fingers of the right hand. Doc Scratch’s right hand then shoved John’s God Tier shirt down a bit, stretching the material--anD HOLY F**K HE WAS BURNING JOHN’S SKIN!?

“GAH, WHAT THE F**K!?” John nearly screeched.

The Heir wheezed as he quickly tried to lash out at the First Guardian. Doc Scratch however had the teen firmly pinned. John gritted his teeth, body beginning to mist into wind--f**k, f**k, f**k! Sh**, did he just get f**king tricked!? Was Doc Scratch going to kill him? D**n, way to go John, dropping your guard around a sketchy guy who is a servant to your greatest enemy--!

Doc Scratch let go and stepped back. John grunted, taking in deep, starving breaths as if he had recently drowned. Well, he probably did drown--in f**king pain.

As John struggled for breath, Doc Scratch calmly tugged his glove back on. The First Guardian stalked across the room and rummaged through a nearby cupboard, pulling out a towel. He then walked over to the refrigerator--wow, John just realized now that there was a refrigerator in the green room--opening it up and scooping ice out and into the unfolded towel. Doc Scratch then walked back over to John, pressing the makeshift icepack against the Heir’s throbbing, left shoulder.

“Sorry for my barbarous methods, but I have now left a piece of me with you.” The First Guardian finally said, reaching over to a table that was nearby, picking up a handheld mirror and angling it before John. “See, now you have something to remember me by.” He tittered.

John squeezed his eyes shut for a moment before opening them as Doc Scratch moved the icepack away. The ravenet puffed out a breath as he then studied the reflection in the small mirror. There was a white, filled circle that was printed on his throbbing, red skin. He had the tattoo of a f**king cue ball on his left shoulder.

“...Great.” He mumbled sarcastically. “What am I, your property now?”

Hee hee, perhaps?” Doc Scratch countered, amused as he set the mirror to the side.

“Oh my f**king gog.” John huffed out.

“Watch your profanity.”

John barked out a shaky laugh as Doc Scratch kneeled down and pressed the towel-icepack back to his throbbing shoulder--f**k, it feels like it was broken. Anyways...John and Doc Scratch were...bantering now? John blinked in idle surprise as he looked up at the blank surface of Doc Scratch’s face.

“...So...uh…” John paused for a moment when Doc Scratch inclined his head at him. “...Are we…..”

“‘Friends’?” The First Guardian finished for him. Doc Scratch hummed for a bit as he continued to hold the makeshift icepack against John’s shoulder. “Time will tell, John Egbert.”

John grumbled at that, head leaning back to thunk against the cushioned chair behind him. The ravenet stared up at the green ceiling above him, finding a light fixture there. The light splashed a soft green glow in the room.

“You’re being confusing.” He mumbled as he steadied his breathing.

“I do like being a d**k to people sometimes.” Doc Scratch chuckled.

“Well, you’re certainly doing a great job.” John groaned as he shifted slightly. The ravenet lowered his gaze to squint at the First Guardian. “...Why did you do the tattoo thing?”

“I had said before--I left a piece of myself with you. Much like your friends had done the same with you.” Doc Scratch flipped John’s bangs out of the way as he said this, the Light tattoo revealed to the world. “A part of my spirit is now attached to your soul.”

John shifted in surprise, eyebrows raising as he leaned back into the chair behind him, feeling the plush cushion press against him.

“But why would y--?”

“I am going to die, regardless if I want to or not.” Doc Scratch stated bluntly. “So, I have left a piece of my soul with you. I want to see…” The First Guardian paused for a moment...before continuing. “...I wonder if you will be able to make my Master happy--whether you give him a good fight, somehow managing to be his friend, or….I have no idea. Making my Master happy is supposedly ‘impossible’, so I have no knowledge of that.”

John stared at the other with shock, eyebrows creasing together. The ravenet pursed his lips, lowering his gaze slightly.

“So...you’re still going to die.” He said, voice soft.

“Yes.” Doc Scratch confirmed. “I will die.”

John shut his eyes at that, lips pressed together in a grim line. He then cracked his eyes open after he sighed deeply, looking at Doc Scratch as the First Guardian continued to ice his shoulder.

“.....Rose still thinks you’re a conniving little b*****d, but she admits that she respects your knowledge and skill to manipulate people with your words alone.” John suddenly said as he heard Rose murmur similar words in his head.

Doc Scratch inclined his head, hand slowly easing up pressure on John’s shoulder, which was now throbbing dully at the moment, the pain much more bearable.

“Is that so?” He murmured before pulling back completely, the icepack set to the side. John grunted as his throbbing skin now was exposed to the air. Doc Scratch lifted his right hand up and a first aid kit warped in his hand. “Take off your shirt.”

John huffed at that and simply transformed his shirt into wind. The ravenet sensed that Doc Scratch stared at the Time tattoo over where his heart should be before he opened the first aid kit.

“I’m surprised you’re still alive, John Egbert.” Doc Scratch muttered as he slathered burning cream onto John’s red, irritated skin, briefly brushing his thumb over the white cue ball tattoo that was there. “Three pieces of three different souls attach to your body in mere, rushed seconds. And then you’re sent back in time, into the body of your 13 year-old self.”

John shrugged slightly, wincing before relaxing when the nice, cool burning cream was applied to his skin.

“I dunno. I do a lot of crazy, impossible things. So does everyone else.”

Doc Scratch scoffed softly, setting the tube of burning cream aside and grabbing the cotton patches.

“How modest of you.” He said, voice tinged with sarcasm. “But you really should be dead. Attaching another person’s soul to yours is similar to ripping a piece of paper up and attempting to tape it back together. And time traveling when Time isn’t your main Aspect is similar to jumping off of a cliff with little to no chances of survival. John Egbert, you go against logic and fate.”

John chuckled warily at this before frowning slightly.

“Uh...how does one attach a part of their soul to another?”

Doc Scratch hummed softly as he held the cotton patch over the burn with his left hand while grabbing the roll of bandages off of the ground with his right.

“To give up a piece of your soul, you must have a colossal amount of trust in the person you are giving it to.” Doc Scratch placed one end onto the cotton patch and began to roll the bandages around John’s upper torso; the teen lifted his arms up slightly without having to be told. “It takes some amount of trust on the other side too. The soul bond I made with you only hurt because you didn’t trust me.”

John blinked, processing this….before widening his eyes in surprise.

“Wait, you trust me?” He murmured in surprise.

Doc Scratch huffed, finishing in wrapping the bandages around the Heir’s torso. He ripped the bandages he used away from the main roll and used his left hand to hold the white strips in place. He grabbed a bottle of something from the ground and popped the lid open with his right hand. John then found that the contents were something like glue as Doc Scratch rubbed it onto the bandages to hold them in place until he could remove it.

“You shall perceive this information however you’d like to. In other words, I shall not answer your question.” Doc Scratch said amusedly.

John huffed as he then dropped his arms to his sides, misting his God Tier shirt back onto his body. The ravenet’s shoulder felt way better than before. John then lifted his curious gaze to Doc Scratch as the First Guardian warped the medical kit away after storing everything back into the small, white box. Doc Scratch stood up and backed away. The ravenet then furrowed his eyebrows slightly.

‘Wait...Dave, were you the one that sent me back in time?’ John’s eyes then widened. ‘Hold on a f**king second--did all three of you plan to send me back!?’

The voices in his head were silent. There was no soft crackle of fire. There was no gentle rain. There was no cool snow. And then...Jade sobbed softly, breaking the silence first.

{W-We’re so sorry, John! We didn’t want you to die and we knew you wouldn’t agree, a-and--!}

{I had the vision first that we would not make it.} Rose softly cut in. {The war with Lord English was similar to a Doomed Timeline. We would not make it.}

{So,} Dave butted in, voice sounding a bit tired. {We talked long and hard about it. Rose then had another vision and she said that you would go back…} The Knight paused for a moment before he gritted out one word. {Alone.}

John slumped in his seat. Doc Scratch noted this but he made no comment, moving about the room instead to put things in place, warping out burnt objects and replacing them with new ones. John placed a hand over his eyes as he sucked in a deep breath.

‘........’

{Believe us, John. We would’ve never sent you back alone!} Jade shouted, voice anguished. {There’s no f**king way we would choose to let you go back in time on your own! Please don’t be mad...}

‘That’s...not what I’m--....I’m not mad.’ He murmured. ‘I’m...sad though. I mean...f**k, I wish things didn’t have to end up this way--and hey! Don’t blame yourselves, okay? I’m really not mad at you guys.’

John dropped his hand from his face, feeling much older than 20 for the nth time in his life. He sighed deeply.

‘I forgive you for keeping this a secret from me--really, I do. I forgive all three of you.’ John smiled warily. ‘You all were just trying to do what was best for me and I appreciate it.’

Silence filled his head. But John could finally feel their emotions lift slightly.

{....You are way too nice to us, John.} Dave finally muttered with a soft chuckle.

The other two in John’s head murmured in agreement, their emotions much more relaxed and happy. John smiled softly at this, leaning back against the couch comfortably.

“I find it disturbing that you’re smiling like that for no particular reason,” Doc Scratch’s smooth voice suddenly entered the conversation. “But I’m going to guess you are having a mental conversation with your companions.”

John rolled his eyes and directed his gaze towards Doc Scratch, huffing softly.

Rude. Can’t a person smile when they want to?” John sighed.

Doc Scratch chuckled, voice sly as he went by the table and picked up John’s cup of...tea? Let’s just call it tea.

“Oh, my apologies.” The First Guardian said sarcastically. “I shall no longer judge people for smiling for no reason in particular.”

“I was mentally speaking with my friends!” John protested as Doc Scratch handed the teen his tea. The ravenet huffed at the chuckle from the other.

[Indeed. I could hear the conversation.]

John froze, cup of tea at his lips. He set the cup down on the mini plate in his hands and stared at Doc Scratch with wide eyes.  The Heir slowly set his cup of tea down on the table before him along with the mini plate.

{Hey, invasion of privacy!} Jade barked playfully to the new voice in John’s head.

[Ah. I see that the bond has fully connected now. Fabulous.] Doc Scratch’s voice purred.

{This is so f**king weird.} Dave muttered while Rose chuckled softly.

John massaged his head with the palm of his right hand, sighing exasperatedly; his left shoulder was tingling slightly underneath the bandages. The ravenet leveled his calm, blue gaze with Doc Scratch’s face. The Heir then smiled tiredly.

“Welcome aboard the Egbert Mental Realm Express--the train ride that’s wrecked with emotions.” He chortled weakly.

Doc Scratch scoffed as he walked over to his own seat, picking his suit top up. He shoved his hands through the sleeves and quickly started to button the coat up, hiding his pistol from view.

“Oh goodie. Do you serve tea on this trainwreck?” Doc Scratch asked amusedly as he bent down to clear the table of everything.

John watched as things were warped away with a spark of green, a small laugh bubbling past his lips as he sat up straighter in his seat.

“Yep. All of the tea in the world.”

“Lovely. I have no regrets in giving a piece of my soul to you then.” Doc Scratch simply said as he adjusted his tie. The First Guardian then stopped moving for a moment before turning to look at John. “...I am mildly surprised in how you got a hold of a scale from Yaldabaoth.”

John blinked in surprise and confusion at this.

“Huh? What’s that?”

Doc Scratch huffed.

“What you did, John Egbert, wasn’t completely traveling back into time actually. What you really did was ‘reset’ yourself. And that was with the scale of Yaldabaoth--only one scale from that Denizen can be used to reset yourself. All of his other scales will be useless to you.” Doc Scratch cocked his head slightly. “Whoever was able to get that scale for you must’ve been very powerful or wise.”

Doc Scratch then paused for a moment before chuckling.

“Or they must have been extremely dumb and extraordinarily lucky.”

John blinked in mild surprise before frowning contemplatively.

‘Dave...you...pushed something into my hand before I was sent back. Was that the scale of Yaldabaoth?’

{...Yeah. The red dragon-like scale turned gray after making contact with you. Dirk was the one that gave it to me; he said he got it through shenanigans.}

[How interesting.] Doc Scratch suddenly butted in. [I would like to learn about these ‘shenanigans’.]

{Dude. Privacy?} Dave groaned. {Jegus, are you gonna do this every single time now?}

[Perhaps.]

John huffed softly at this, chuckling under his breath before standing up carefully, rolling his left shoulder slowly to get some feeling in it before turning to look at Doc Scratch.

“Thank you for...talking and trusting me, I guess.” John frowned, a bit troubled. “...I...don’t know if I’ll be able to...get rid of this hate for Lord English--I mean, the universe created him to be the angry half of the cherub life cycle, right? I don’t understand.”

Doc Scratch hummed softly, gloved hands clasped behind his back as he walked up to the teen, standing two heads taller than the Heir. The First Guardian reached a hand out, considering for a moment, before patting John’s head with a surprising amount of gentleness. John widened his eyes in surprise at the gesture.

“What you will do...is for you to decide, John Egbert--the Heir of Breath, the Time Traveler, the One That Goes Against Fate, the Elder Brother of Joey and Jude, and…” Doc Scratch leaned down slightly and John could’ve sworn he saw a face--like the cue ball head was a helmet and he saw a human-like face beneath the milky filter. He saw a smile--a real smile. “...my New Friend.”

John opened his mouth in surprise. For a moment, he was stunned, unable to grasp words to respond. Before the teen could say anything, Doc Scratch warped the Heir away. John squinted his eyes shut at the bright, green light that surrounded him.

In an instant, the light died away and John rapidly blinked his eyes. He glanced around swiftly and found that he was somewhere on LOWAS. John looked at his feet and found that he was on a gear. Hmm...so where was Beat Mesa? He drifted his gaze to the side--

“Johnny, boy’o,” A deep voice suddenly called out at his side. “Is that you, little chap?”

John widened his eyes and whipped his head around. He froze at the familiar, yet slightly unfamiliar, face he was greeted with. The mustache on the face of the taller and older person before him twitched slightly as the owner of it cocked his head slightly, forest-green eyes examining John through square glasses.

John blinked rapidly when he then noticed that the other was wearing a yellow mask that circled the forest green eyes beneath the glasses. The Heir then studied the clothes the other was wearing. The not-so-stranger was wearing a yellow t-shirt with a detachable hood...gloves...and long, golden pants tucked into red boots.

He saw the pale-gold symbol that flourished on the elder’s chest.

The symbol of Hope.

This person was...

A Rogue of Hope.

John lifted his gaze back to the other’s face with wide eyes. Blue clashed with forest-green eyes. The elder gazed back first before moving a hand up to his face, brushing his fingers beneath the glasses, captchalogging the yellow mask over his eyes. The other brushed his hood back, revealing a head of raven locks.

John drew in a sharp breath, shaking off his stupor.

“...Grandpa Harley…?”

==> Reader: Be Rose who’s on Derse.

You are now Rose Lalonde.

After waking up on Derse, and waiting for roughly an hour in your room, you decide to float over to where Dave’s tower should be. Pushing away from your window, you fly through the air, glancing down briefly at the Dersites that are milling about. You watch as a few curious citizens look up at you before lifting your own gaze to the purple tower you’re closing in on.

You slow to a stop in the air and pause at Dave’s window. Carefully, you peer inside….

You find Strider sleeping on his bed at the moment, but you have a feeling he’ll wake up very soon. Silently, you fly into Dave’s tower room. Your feet land softly onto the ground as you glance around swiftly.

==> Rose: Observe room.

Well...at least you now know that your room walls aren’t the weirdest thing so far. You see that there are those two characters from Dave’s bullsh** comic on the Strider’s walls. They’re drawn with some sort of glowing ink as they stand out against the royal purple of the wall.

You raise a bemused eyebrow before you walk over to stand beside Dave’s bed, sitting down on the edge of it without disturbing the occupant of it. You sigh softly as you watch Dave sleep peacefully--with his shades on. Your lips twitch upward into an amused smile. But then your smile fades as you think back to your other friend.

John.

Your friend dressed in blue has pretty much saved your life. Poor John had to kiss your bloody lips in order to wake you up on Derse. But now...you are far more worried on how he’s doing now.

It’s most likely he’s working on the Scratch now since he had said that he would do that after you had died. Your mom and his dad might be alive right now, but you still worry for John’s mental health. You’re not sure if...Davesprite and Broderick have been taking care of John, but you’ll admit the shadows in his eyes look much better than from the beginning of the game.

Still...you’re worried about him…

You then shake your head softly and scoot back on the bed, mindful of Dave’s feet as you lean against the purple wall behind you. You then wait for Dave to wake up...or for the green box that John talked about to arrive.

~~

Hzah--? What…?” A sleep-roughened voice mutters.

Looks like Dave woke up before the green box arrived.

You blink and lift your gaze from the purple floor to see Dave sit up, his hair a little mussed up. His shades slip down slightly and you see his red eyes look at you with confusion, recognition, and then a calm familiarity. The blonde lazily lifts his right hand up and gives you a two-fingered salute, running his left through his hair to straighten it out.

“Sup, Rose.” He drawls, cool composure back into place.

You quirk a small smile at Dave in return as he shoves his bedsheets off of his lap, legs lifting up and swinging over the side of the bed. He then scoots a little closer to you, pushing his shades up; he lifts an eyebrow at you.

“Did ya’ miss me?”

==> Rose: Banter with the Strider.

You scoff softly, rolling your eyes slightly. You lean forward, moving a hand up to boop him on the nose, your lips curled up in a small, fond smile.

“Always so full of yourself, aren’t you, David?” You simpered.

Dave’s eyebrows immediately furrow and his face scrunches up slightly with distaste. He reaches to his side and quickly picks up his purple pillow, lightly beating you with it as you chuckle softly, raising your hands in mock surrender.

“You know I hate it when you call me that.” Dave grumbles as he tosses his pillow back onto the bed carelessly.

Your black lips continue to press together in an amused smirk before you incline your head at Dave, scanning his face thoughtfully. You note that his form is a little tense, his shoulders raised a small margin higher from their relaxed form. You purse your lips with slight concern.

“....Are you alright, Dave?” You ask, voice soft.

Dave notices that you’re using your ‘therapy voice’. He scowls slightly and looks away from you...before his shoulders droop and he speaks.

“...I saw Bro before he told me to go to sleep.”

You blink your eyes rapidly in surprise and wait for Dave to turn to look at you first before speaking.

“...I had met him myself when I went berserk.” At Dave’s questioning gaze, you elaborate. “I found out...that my mother died, and John’s dad died too. I was overcome with rage and turned Grimdark by the gods of the Furthest Ring.”

Dave’s mouth opens...before he closes it. He fiddles with the purple sleeve of his Derse pajamas, furrowing his eyebrows before he finds words to speak again.

“...Jesus, Rose, I’m sorry--”

“My mother is no longer dead now. Neither is John’s dad.” You smile weakly at Dave. “Both of them...they’ve been revived as Gods of Void and Breath.”

Dave seems to relax at this, but he raises his eyebrows in surprise. He scoots back to lean against the wall with you. He thunks his head back against the flat surface behind him.

“That’s cool.” He hums for a moment before speaking. “Bro was a god too, but you probably seen him when you were...berserk? And you suddenly woke up on Derse?”

==> Rose: Tell him about all the sh** that went down.

You smile at this before scooting a little closer to him, shoulders brushing. It wasn’t anything romantic, but it was more of a comforting gesture as you sat beside each other on his bed. With a soft sigh, you start at the beginning--your conversations with Kanaya, and all the way to your awakening on Derse.

When you were done with your story, Dave told his. He talked about a troll named Terezi and Karkat, and how John was a little strange during some random memo about...hitting on someone?  You are amused even though you don't understand much. He also talked about Bro appearing and telling him to sleep in a temple on LOHAC. Dave apparently didn’t have enough time to bond with his Guardian, judging by the slightly disappointed slouch in his form.

And the conversations continued to flow like this as both of you waited for a green box.

~~

“D**n.” Dave says after a moment when you finished up retelling a memory. He smirks at you. “Did you serious think that hard about mutilating Jack? I mean, I guess I can’t blame you, but…”

“Yes, yes,” You huff back at him. “My thoughts were very rampant with rage. I was a bit worried I would lose myself. But John managed to avert my anger an--”

Pop!

You blink and Dave inclines his head at the sound. Both of you immediately turn your heads to see an object within the middle of the room.

It was the green box.

==> Rose: Pick up the package.

You move first, hopping off of the bed and crouching down to pick up the box. Your fingers touch the surface and the box feel a bit warm, like it was in the oven or something and it was cooling off rapidly. With a sigh, your grab it and stand up, tilting your head as use use your left hand to hold it and use your right to open it up.

Once the box is open, you find the captchalogue card of the Tumor...and a note. John’s note. You hum softly as you then walk back to the bed, sitting on the left of Dave, pulling the note out while keeping the captchalogue card in the box for now.

==> Rose: Open up the note.

You set the green box down for now as you unfold the note. Immediately, you recognize the handwriting and blue ink on the paper. You blink as Dave scoots over to sit by you on the edge of the bed.

“That from John?” He drawls. “Read it.”

You roll your eyes at how bossy he was being, but you comply to his wishes, clearing your throat before you speak.

“‘Hey, Dave and Rose!’” You say, putting some John-like cheer into your voice. “‘I...I honestly don’t know where to start. But I guess you guys have already noticed that, ever since the day of my birthday, I’ve been acting…...strange. And this note to you guys should answer most of your questions. Just...please, I hope you guys won’t be mad at me.’”

You stop reading--d**n, the cheerfulness quickly took a sharp turn to something serious--aloud and turn your gaze to Dave. You see how his eyebrows furrow. Both of you sharing similar feelings of dread and worry. You return your gaze to the paper, parting your lips once more to speak.

“‘I’ll say it here and now. No more beating around the bush. I am’--”. You stop.

...This is…

Oh f**k…...things are actually starting to make a little sense if this fact is true. You bite your lower lip as you reread the blue words on the paper before you. Dave huffs slightly, nudging your shoulder.

“What does it f**king say?”

“‘I…’” You swallow for a moment. “‘I...am a time traveler.’”

“...What?”

Dave furrows his eyebrows as he looks at you. He then gets up from the bed. He steps forward and quickly whirls around to look at you, taking his shades off so you can see his bright, ruby-red eyes. He looks angry, frustrated, and confused.

“What the f**k are you f**king saying, Ros--?” He nearly barks.

“It’s what the note says.” You immediately grit back, fingers struggling to stay untensed around the note in your hands so you don’t crumple it. “It say here in the note: ‘I am a time traveler’. This is written in blue ink with John’s handwriting. I am not joking.”

Dave grits his teeth slightly, pressing his right palm to his forehead as he mutters something under his breath. The Strider holds his shades as loose as possible in his left hand. You furrow your eyebrows and bite your lower lip before you look down at the note in your hands again.

“...’I bet by now you guys are thinking that it’s crazy or something, but it’s true. I, John Egbert, am a time traveler.’” The words sound strange on your tongue. “‘I have come back...seven years from the future.’”

“‘Seven years’?” Dave mumbles, a bit of disbelief in his voice. “That far ahead?”

You also feel a bit thrown off at the revelation, but you keep your gaze on the blue words. Your left thumb smooths out a small wrinkle on the corner of the note.

“‘Things just...didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to be. We completed the game--we really did--but...a cherub called Lord English’,” You pause for a moment at the familiar name before continuing. “‘He ripped our victory away from us.’”

Your eyes lower to the next few lines and your heart sinks, your right hand dropping to your side while the left continues to hold the note up. You start to feel weary. Apparently you’ve been silent for too long and Dave sits next to you, his left hand loosely grasping your right wrist to show you that he was there, grounding you; he held his shades in his right hand now. You take a shuddering breath, finally gaining the energy to summarize to Dave what was written.

“...Four years, Dave.” You finally murmur. “....John has been fighting in a war for four years.”

Dave’s hand stiffens around your wrist, but he keeps silent this time. Instead, he carefully rubs his thumb over the bone in your wrist, soothing you slightly with the slow motions. You swallow and continue to read...finally, you find a spot to read aloud.

“....’The battle was lost, so I travelled back in time to fix things. It’s been...amazing to see you guys again, hehe.’” You lower your gaze and furrow your eyebrows at the small smudge--oh John... “‘And now it comes down to the Tumor part. I won’t lie to you--this is a suicide mission, and the Tumor will actually create the Green Sun instead of destroy it.’”

You blink at this while Dave leans in slightly to look over your shoulder. Your gaze quickly continues to read.

“‘I know. It’s a d**k move to ask you guys to do this, but we actually need the Green Sun a bit to help our allies. Also...you’ll be able to find your God Tier beds in the Furthest Ring. But, if you guys don’t want to do this, I understand--but send the Tumor far away from where you guys are so you don’t get hurt.’” You smile slightly at this--John, always thinking about his friends. “‘I trust you guys with the Tumor, and I don’t want you to die...but you guys really will be fine! Rose, you’ll be the Seer of Light, and Dave, you’ll be the Knight of Time! I...ugh, f**k, this still doesn’t change the fact that I’m sending the two of you on a suicide mission.’”

Your voice grows softer as you reach the end of the note.

“‘...Anyways, I’ll explain everything more when we meet up with each other. And you guys get to meet Karkat and the gang if you complete the Tumor thing. I’m NOT saying you have to do this...but I’m trying to say...you guys will be alright after setting the Tumor off.’” You pause for a moment before finishing up the note. “‘Please stay safe. John.’”

...

...Silence falls upon the room. You slowly set the note down and stare at the floor for a moment as Dave continues to hold your hand loosely. You’re trying to comprehend what you’ve just read aloud. F**k, why does it have to be John? You mean, why does he have to go through all of this pain? Why did he have to go alone? It wasn’t fair--

To your surprise, fingers gently lace with yours. You blink and turn your head to see Dave’s fingers intertwined with yours. He was staring at the note on the bed for a moment before he lifts his red eyes to look at you. You can see so many emotions in his bright irises now, but determination seems to burn and stand out the most.

“C’mon, Rose. Let’s set off the sh**ty Tumor and meet up with the trolls, yeah?” He smirks at you. “If we’re gonna cuddle the sh** out of John, we need to show him that we don’t give a f**k about blowing up our a**es up for him.”

You blink your eyes rapidly in surprise. Your lips are parted slightly with speechlessness..before a soft smile crawls along your face. You let out a soft chuckle, squeezing his left hand with your right.

“Sounds like a fabulous plan.” You murmur back. You then pause for a moment before sending a thoughtful look to Dave. “Think you can slice through the chain that connects our mini planet with the main body of Derse?”

Dave throws a smirk at you, bringing out a sword from his Strife Deck. He shoulders his blade and floats off of the bed, drifting towards the window. With one foot on the windowsill, Dave calls back towards you.

“Give me five minutes.” He drawls before ducking out of the room through the window.

You smile fondly at this and shut your eyes, sighing softly as you scoot back on his bed to lean your head against the wall behind you.

You’ll get through this with Dave…...and then you’re going to have a long, comforting talk with John--you’ll make sure Jade and Dave are with you so all of you can give John some emotional support while he fully explains himself face-to-face.

==> Rose: Be Grandpa Harley a few hours ago.

Chapter Text

==> Rose: Be Grandpa Harley a few hours ago.

Really? We hardly know what happened to Grandpa at the beginning.

==> Um…

Ugh, go back to around the time Bro recently ascended or something.

==> Er, okay…

==> Rose: Be Grandpa Harley around the time Bro recently ascended to God Tier.

You are now Grandpa Harley, or Jacob Harley. Right now you are piloting your starship. A few hours earlier, you had dropped off your dear friends James Egbert and Roxanne Lalonde on the planet Skaia. You haven’t seen your good chap Broderick Strider though, and that’s causing you to worry.

You are also worried about your granddaughter, Jade. While you’re certain that Bec is with her, you hope that none of those pesky imps, basilisks, ogres, or giclops have gotten their hands on her--or he** will rain down on those dastardly beasts.

You frown at this for a moment before shaking your head, sighing softly. Bec is a good dog; he’ll protect Jade. With another sigh, you idly tap your fingers along the wheel you’re using to steer the ship.

As you drift through the Medium, you think back to what you briefly saw on LOWAS before you met up with James and Roxanne. After traversing that beautiful land--despite it’s polluted rivers and sky--you had come across a certain, young Egbert.

That boy…

John.

...John held his own fairly well against all of the pesky monsters on LOWAS. You’re surprised that he knew how to fight so...gracefully. His movements were smooth and natural. As if the boy had been….

...It’s as if John has been fighting for quite some time.

Memories cloud your mind and you feel a heavy weight of guilt and worry. A few faces flash across your thoughts as you furrow your eyebrows, tightening your hands on the wheel of your ship.

He….he can’t be…….?

It’s been years since you’ve seen--...

...

...It...It just can’t be possible.

...

....It’s just not possible. But...d**n, perhaps he is? You swear you’ve seen those slightly stormy, blue eyes before sometime in the past--

You see something in the far distance away from your ship. Whatever it was, it blasts past your ship in a blur of magenta and red. You furrow your eyebrows for a moment as you turn your head slightly to follow the blur.

...Darn, despite your sharp eyes, the distance is too much. You have no idea what that blur was. With a soft grumble, you turn your attention to the front of your ship, carefully piloting through drifting meteors. You better check the other planets to see if Bro is there.

You turn the wheel so you can head to your first destination: Prospit.

~~

The Prospitians are friendly and welcoming as you dock your ship nearby. You walk through the golden city, taking in the view for a moment. You ask the Prospitians about your wayward friend, describing the stoic, tall blonde to the white, doll-like people.

So far, all of them have shook their heads or said that they haven’t seen Broderick. You’re not too disappointed. Prospit wasn’t a likely area for Broderick to be in. You sigh softly before perking up. Perhaps you can look for someone else around here.

==> Jacob: Seek your granddaughter’s tower.

If you recall correctly, Jade’s tower should be nearby--or that’s what you had researched about Prospit. You dart your eyes around and find a tower. You briskly walk down the golden road, politely stepping around a few milling Prospitians to get to your destination. Building Jade’s Dreambot was somewhat helpful in pinpointing which tower was your granddaughter’s.

You slow to a stop at the entrance of the tower. You slowly raise your gaze up, adjusting your glasses as you incline your head slightly at the window above. Reaching into your Strife Deck, you pull out a grappling-hook gun. You check your gun for a moment before raising it up, aiming at the window above.

You could just take the stairs, but where’s the adventure in that? With a small smirk you pull the trigger--a hook followed by wire immediately shoots up into the air. Once the hook was secure on the windowsill, you yank once, twice, and place a foot on the tower before you.

The Prospitians watch you with wide eyes while you merely start climbing the tower. You climb quickly as you keep one hand on your gun, scaling the tower quickly. Other people would usually be scared sh**less of the height you’re at now, but you merely grin with excitement. You finally reach the window and peer inside carefully. You wonder if Dream Jade is awake now and--

...What…?

You barely notice the fact that there’s a Derse Agent in your granddaughter’s dream room. All you can see now is the red, red, red, red, red blood that stains the walls and floor.

...A-And...oh God...your granddaughter.

There she lays in the center of the room, dressed in her Prospit pajamas. She’s slightly curled up in the puddle of blood she lies in, turning her clothes into a red-orange color.

Dream-Jade is dead.

Killed.

Murdered.

You’re snapped out of your daze when the Derse Agent barks curses at you, brandishing his bloody knife in the air. You know that Jade should be alive somewhere else--but seeing Dream Jade dead makes you feel cold and hollow inside. You feel no joy or excitement for a good hunt when you quickly pull a pistol out of your Strife Deck.

The Derse Agent falters in surprise. The shocked look on his face is the last expression he ever makes before a bullet shoots through the center of his forehead. You swiftly swing into the room and detach your grappling hook from the windowsill. You dispassionately gaze down at the dead body of the Dersite.

And then...you turn your gaze to Jade.

...O-Oh Jade.

“Pa, you’re never home.”

“Pa, stop hunting for animals! It’s cruel!”

“Uh, Dad…? Are you gonna...stay longer this week?”

“Jacob, Love, I’m sorry. I won’t be...able to...stay...at your side...anymore…”

You’ve failed your family again.

You store your weapons away and quickly kneel down beside your granddaughter’s body, careful of the blood that stains the carpet below you. Gently, with shaking hands, you lift Dream Jade’s limp body into your arms. Her head lolls and falls onto your chest as your arm goes under her shoulders and her knees, cradling her body on your lap. Her eyes are shut behind her glasses; it’s as if she were sleeping instead.

The large, red stain on the front of her clothes says otherwise.

You feel a lump in your throat as you then bury your face into her messy, raven locks, careful to not dig your glasses into her head. You shut your eyes and simply hold her, listening to your own breathing, the only sound in the room. Something warm drips down your cheeks as your body shakes slightly as you hold the dream version of your granddaughter in your arms.

She’s so cold in your arms.

~~

Recovering...took a while. The process of stuffing--you did this when you were back on the ship--was uncomfortable this time; usually you’d be filled with pride with preparing your kill to be displayed proudly--Jade’s dead dream-self was nothing to be proud of.

Prospitians had mourned the loss of Jade and gathered in the center of the golden city, dressed in black clothes. You yourself had only passed through the center of the city briefly hearing hushed whispers.

You’ve checked the tower where John’s dream-self should be--he's not there. You concluded three things: sleep-walking, kidnapping, or God Tier. You really hope it’s the latter.  You've also seen two more towers, but you have a feeling they must be something private to the Prospitians, so you decided not to investigate them.

Now, you are back on your ship, the stuffed Dream-Jade inside your room on the starship. You sigh deeply as you push your glasses up to rub at your weary eyes; they feel puffy. Your heart feels heavy...before you shake your head, inhaling sharply as you readjust your glasses back onto your face.

==> Jacob: Go find Strider.

With a slow exhale, you finally place your hands onto the wheel of your ship and turn on the engine, pulling away from the Prospitian dock. You turn the wheel and start heading to your next destination.

~~

...Broderick was supposed to meet up with either one of you--James, Roxanne, or you--but perhaps there’s been a change of plans? Or was your good friend still on LOHAC with his little brother? Maybe he was attempting to initiate the Scratch…

…Oh bollocks, you’re probably thinking too hard about this. With a sigh, you shake your head and push your glasses up, fingers rubbing into your eyes. You pinch your nose for a brief moment before sighing once more, dropping your hand from your face after you adjust your glasses back into place.

You are still piloting your starship to check up on your wayward Strider friend. Broderick hasn’t shown up at the any possible meeting place on all of the planets. Perhaps you’ve missed the ol’ chap? You’re getting more worried by the minute. So, with your starship, you are now heading towards LOHAC. It’s been a long handful of hours since you’ve checked the other planets, but you haven’t seen a hair of Bro--......hang on. What’s that in front of your ship?

You narrow your green eyes and quickly pull your shotgun out of your Strife Deck. A black figure was floating at the front of your ship. You quickly cut the engine and your starship slows to a stop. You click the safety off of your shotgun as you try to see who was floating in front of your ship.

...A...Dersite? This fellow has wings…! And they also have...a dog head? Why, this Dersite looks a bit like Bec! Your gaze then flickers around the rest of the Dersite’s body warily. Oh...that’s quite a lot of blood on that--actually, you think the Dersite’s a he--blade he has. You tense slightly and flicker your gaze to unreadable white eyes. With a soft intake of breath, you call out--despite the distance, you’re quite certain you’ll be able to be heard.

“Hello there, chap!” Your voice slightly echos in the space that surrounds your starship and the Dersite that was far away from you. “Are you here for directions?! Derse is a little past where I’m heading!”

You are cautious. With what happened to...your granddaughter, these Dersites might all be feral beasts. Your finger continues to rest over the trigger of your shotgun.

The Dersite is silent--well, actually, he growls at you. Your finger twitches slightly on your shotgun. Oh~boy, this is quite the problem. You note the golden ring the Dersite was wearing--oh bollocks, he has the Queen’s ring. That means...fudge-sticks, he has ol’ Bec’s powers. This is very bad. You’ll be standing no chance against this large fellow.

Wait...oh God. You’ve seen the battlefield after you had dropped Roxanne and James off. All of those Dersites and Prospitians were dead--sliced through cleanly. Was this Dersite the cause of the bloody battlefield? And was--......oh no.

Something clicks in your mind as you stare longer and longer at the Dersite floating in front of your ship. You grind your teeth slowly before narrowing your eyes.

“You...did you kill a blonde with pointy shades and a hat!?” You barked, cocking your gun. “Did. You. Kill. Broderick. Strider!?”

The Dersite blinks, recognition darting across his face before he sneers.

“Yeah. I know that b*****d.”

You blink...and blink again. There was nothing...smug about his answer. For some reason, the Dersite sounded...begrudgingly respectful? You lower your shotgun down slightly, inclining your head curiously at the Dersite before y--the dog-man suddenly raises his blade, leveling it at you.

You tense up and aim your shotgun at him quickly. You know you will most likely not survive this fight, but you’ll at least try. But then…...the Dersite...seems to be...struggling with himself? You see that his armed hand seems to be struggling between aiming his sword at you while also lowering it to be defenseless. You think you can hear the Dersite muttering to himself.

“...F**king dog…! I know...what I’m...doing!” He looks like he’s whisper-shouting at his own arm. What is the world…? “Shut up...with your f**king love...for your d**n...owners….!”

You blink--the Deriste is gone in a spark of green.

You jerk in surprise and quickly whirl around--

...Well...you did admit before...that you wouldn’t win, but you didn’t think it would be over so quickly. Your hat falls onto the deck with a soft sound. You smile wryly at the blade that’s stabbing you through the chest. As darkness seeps into your vision, you look up at the face of your killer and--

...He looks anguished--but that must be the Bec part of him. Still, it strikes you odd to see some sort of calculating look within the white eyes of the Dersite--like he’s planning more than just your death. Like he’s...helping you with something?

You don’t have anymore time to think before the darkness completely overwhelms you.

Well, well! It seems our Dear Rogue has finally gotten himself killed.

You blink your eyes open, surprised. You dart your gaze around for a moment, finding yourself floating in darkness. You frown slightly, trying to move, but everything in your body feels a bit sluggish--like it’s heavy with sleep. You blink again and try to glance around.

“Who the d**kens…!?”

Hey, Jacob Harley, you best calm down, mate! You’re safe.

Yeah, the numbness you feel is normal. You died just recently, so just calm down, Dear Rogue.

You furrow your eyebrows at this before you finally catch a flicker of pale, golden light above. You squint your eyes slightly at the light above, raising a bemused eyebrow.

“...Who are you?”

Hope. The voices immediately answer.

You furrow your eyebrows at this before widening your eyes in surprise. Hope? As in the Aspect? The voices laugh softly in return.

I see that you recognize who we are.

Haha, you’re so surprised, Jacob.

Oh, don’t tease him. He is confused. Rightfully so.

The golden light gets a little brighter as more voices speak with each other. You shift slightly as you continue to float--hold it! What about that Dersite!?

“Erm, excuse me, Hope, but I really need to be somewhere!” You say, trying to be as polite as possible--argh, wait. You’re dead, aren’t you? But then...how are you talking to these voices?

Ah, you’re worried about Jack Noir. You don’t have to worry about a thing, Dear Rogue.

Yep, yep! That Dersite is being surprisingly...helpful. And...kind?

He is the one that placed you on your Quest Bed.

You blink in surprise at that.

...So the Dersite’s name was Jack Noir. And he...placed you on a Quest Bed? Your mind is swirling with this new information before your gaze focuses back onto the light above.

“Wait, doesn’t this mean I can go back?”

Yes, yes you can.

I know you must want to get back now, but we want you to tell you something important.

You incline your head slightly at this. You really want to head back. You have no idea what’s happened to your friends now since you’ve been gone for so long. You hope they’re alright. With a sigh, you focus your gaze back onto the light above.

“Well...alright. What do you wish for me to know?” You ask softly.

...You cannot tell John Egbert of your past.

You blink your eyes in surprise before opening your mouth to--

It is necessary for the child to not know, Jacob. Hope murmured. The Heir of Breath is destined to continue to do what he is doing.

Your mouth snaps shut and you stare up at the golden light with furrowed eyebrows. You struggle internally for a moment, memories resurfacing. You peer up at Hope before shutting your eyes.

“...Johnny doesn’t know yet, doesn’t he?” You whisper.

...No. He does not.

“Then his injury…?” You murmur, feeling sick, snapping your eyes open to gaze up at Hope with worry. Oh God, the boy…!

...

...He shall receive it in The End.

You stiffen at this, memories rearing their ugly head as you remember--that day in your past. Blue light suddenly appeared in your yard.  Oh God, there was so much blood

You feel your heart clench at this while the voices continue.

You must not tell him, Jacob Harley. As much as it pains you, John Egbert must go through with this.

The Story must go on.

Your fingers clench and relax a couple of times as you look up at the golden light above. You bite your lower lip and squeeze your eyes shut again. You take a deep breath...before exhaling softly. You slowly open your eyes again, slumping in the darkness.

“...I see.” You murmur tiredly. “I understand.”

A sinking feeling rests in your gut as you continue to float in the darkness for a moment.

...You’re doing it again. You’re--

You are not disappointing your family, Hope suddenly scolded. While you are not a perfect man, you are trying your best to be there for them.

Yes, do not blame yourself, Dear Rogue.

You blink in surprise at this before smiling sadly at the Aspect above you. You’re surprisingly able to move a hand up to tip and imaginary hat towards the light above you.

“Cheers, chap. Thank you for the little pick-me-up.”

No thanks necessary, Dear Rogue.

Now head on to LOHAC, you’ll find the Heir there.

Go and watch over John. That Heir is quite the worrisome child.

Before you can say anything else, a golden light surrounds you in a comforting embrace. You shut your eyes as the light brightens. The sleepy feeling in your limbs is growing less and less now as you continue to float.

...When you sense that the light has died out, you slowly open your eyes and blink in mild surprise. As your drift in the air, you note that you’re flying next to Prospit. You glance downwards and see that you’re wearing golden-colored clothes. You raise your hands up and see the fingerless gloves you’re wearing--they stop shy of reaching your elbows.

Huh...a Rogue of Hope.

You then note as you look down further that a Quest Bed of Hope was below you, a smudge of blood on it. Blinking your eyes in mild surprise, you then jerk your gaze upwards. You had to go and find John! Hope said he was on LOHAC, right?

You whip your head around quickly and spot LOHAC in the distance. You quickly start to fly in that direction, idly noting that your starship was no longer in the area! Where the d**kens is your ship then!?

Maybe it’s back at your island in the past now or something. Did...Jack send it back? You’re very confused now, so you simply shake your head and fly closer to the planet that glowed like hot coals after a blazing fire.

You travel the vast expanse of the Medium before you reach LOHAC, squinting your eyes slightly as you move through the gray clouds in the atmosphere. Once you’re past the clouds, you pause in the air, looking around quickly.

You quickly spot Beat Mesa nearby and start to fly towards it--hang on. What’s that over there? You furrow your eyebrows at the bright glow of blue light down below on a lone island in the sea of lava. You pause before you fly down quickly, landing a safe distance away from the light.

The blue light dies out slowly...revealing a certain raven-haired teen in blue, God Tier clothes. Your heart jumps to your throat and you pause, your eyes burning a little as you stare at the back of a familiar teen. You take in a soft, deep breath...before exhaling shakily.  You steel yourself before opening your mouth to speak.

“Johnny, boy’o,” You call out carefully. “Is that you, little chap?”

John whirls around so quickly you were worried that he might get whiplash. His posture is ready for a fight, but he seems to immediately scan your body and face. You lift a hand to your face to remove the yellow mask around your eyes, captchalogging it so John could recognize it better. You smile tentatively at the boy before your.

John blinks his eyes rapidly in surprise as he gazes at you for a long moment before finally speaking, voice just above a whisper.

“...Grandpa Harley...?”

==> Jacob: Be Rose.

You are now Rose. Currently, while your small Dersite planet is floating out towards the Furthest Ring, Dave and you are sitting on his bed in his dream room. Both of you have been chatting softly until your hubtop alerted you with a message.

You blink in idle surprise and reach into your captchalogue deck, pulling your hubtop out. With furrowed eyebrows, you open the green laptop up and blink in idle surprise at the message you were given. Dave peers over your shoulder and made a noise of recognition.

“Aw he**, that’s Karkat.” He drawls.

Ping!

Dave inclines his head and turns his attention to his iShades for a moment. After a few seconds of silence, he raises his eyebrows and looks over at you, shades hiding the rest of his emotions from view.

“Looks like I got the same invite.”

==> Rose: See what the troll wants.

Dave watches as you open up the memo, turning his iShades off. You squint your eyes as you enlarge that chatbox slightly, watching text start to immediately fill the screen.

?CG AT ??:?? opened memo on board EVERYONE JUST ANSWER THIS F**KING MEMO.

?CG: ALRIGHT YOU LITTLE SH**S. YOU BETTER RESPOND TO THIS GOG D**N MEMO.

??? grimAuxiliatrix [ ?GA ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?GA: Karkat, Is There Something Wrong?

??? gallowsCalibrator [ ?GC ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?GC: Y34H, K4RKL3S, WH4T’S UP? >:]

??? twinArmageddons [ ?TA ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?TA: what the f**k ii2 thii2 about

You blink in idle surprise at the amount of people so far that are blowing up your screen. You glance at Dave and see him raise his eyebrows at you. With a sigh, you go through your captchalogue deck and set up a projection screen so the both of you can send messages and watch the conversation flow together.

CURRENT tentacleTherapist [ CTT ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

CTT: Greetings. I am also curious on what this conversation is about.

?GA: !

?GA: Rose, You Are Alright! Thank Goodness.

CTT: Thank you for your concern. It is thanks to John that I still live.

CTT: Dave and I are also aware that John is from the future.

?GA: I See...

You smile softly at this, black lips tugging upwards into a small smile. Dave looks at you and raises his eyebrows.

“...Is GA your ‘friend’?”

You roll your eyes at the eyebrow wiggle you’re given. You stretch a hand out and push at his shoulder, your small attack ineffective when he merely gives you a playful leer with more wiggling eyebrows.

“Do shut your mouth, Strider. And her name is Kanaya.” You huff.

Dave merely smirks before the both of you turn your attention back to the screen floating before the two of you.

Ping!

??? arsenicCatnip [ ?AC ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?AC: :33 < *ac enters the chatroom and purrs happily to s33 that most of her furiends are gathered here*

?AC: :33 < oooh, hello, human rose!

?AC: :33 < *ac paws curiously at the human rose*

??? adiosToreador [ ?AT ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?AT: uH,,,wHAT’S GOING ON?

??? centaursTesticle [ ?CT ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?CT: D --> Nepeta, please do not be rude.

?AC: :33 < aw, equihiss, i’m only doing playful pawing

??? apocalypseArisen [ ?AA ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?AA: 0h, this is certainly new.

?AA: i haven’t missed anything imp0rtant, right?

?TA: aa, are you feeliing better

?TA: 2houldnt you re2t more

?AA: i’m fine, s0llux. y0u d0n’t have t0 w0rry ab0ut me. 0u0

??? terminallyCapricious [ ?TC ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?TC: WhAt Is MoThErF**kInG uP mY bEsT fRiEnDs? :o)

?GC: OH BOY. G4MZ33, I HOP3 YOU TOOK TH3 M3D1C1N3 1NST34D OF YOUR SOPOR SL1M3. >:[

?TC: My MiRaCuLoUs SiStEr, YoU dOn’T hAvE tO wOrRy AbOuT a MoThErF**iNg ThInG. I tOoK tHoSe PiLls WiTh A nIcE bOtTlE oF mOtHeRf**KiNg FaYgO.

?TC: hOnK, hOnK! :oD

??? caligulasAquarium [ ?CA ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?CA: wwell this seems like a wwaste of time

??? cuttlefishCuller [ ?CC ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?CC: Aw, -Eridan, don’t be so mad! I’m sure this memo is very important.

?CA: alright alright

?CA: it’s just that these memos are usually filled wwith seahorsesh** or somefin

?CC: It’s okay! We can )(ave a moirail talk if you’re still feeling down, -Eridan! 38D

?CA: thanks fef <>

You raise your eyebrows in idle surprise. A few people you recognize--but the others are new to you. You shuffle backwards on Dave’s bed, leaning against the wall behind you. Dave also scoots backwards, leaning against the wall beside you, crossing his arms.

?CG: EVERYONE CALM THE F**K DOWN! WE HAVE IMPORTANT MATTERS TO DISCUSS. ALL OF YOU SIT YOUR A**ES DOWN AND LISTEN.

??? arachnidsGrip [ ?AG ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?AG: W8. Where’s John? Shouldn’t he 8e in this memo? >::::(

?AG: Also, hiiiiiiii Tavros~ ;;;;)

?AT: uH,,,hI VRISKA,,, }:)

?CG: OH FOR THE LOVE OF

?CG: ALL OF YOU SHUT THE F**K UP AND LISTEN! I’VE RECENTLY TALKED TO JOHN AND HE’S DOING FINE.

?CG: AND WHERE THE F**KING HE** IS STRIDER!? A**HOLE, ANSWER THE GOG D**N MEMO YOU N**K-SUCKING WASTE CHUTE!

You glance over at Dave and see that he is smirking. You huff in amusement; it was apparent that the Strider was waiting for Karkat to rage. You move over to poke his shoulder, black lips pulled upward in a small, fond smile.

“Dave, don’t be d**king around now.” You mock scold him.

Dave huffs before responding, rolling his shoulders slightly, running his hand through his hair for a moment as he yawned a bit.

CURRENT turntechGodhead [ CTG ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

CTG: cool your jets edgelord im here

?TA: what2 an edgelord

?CG: NEVERMIND WHAT A F**KING “EDGELORD” IS. WE NEED TO TALK!

?CG: JOHN’S ABOUT TO COMPLETE THE SCRATCH, AND WE ALL NEED TO DISCUSS ABOUT A LOT OF SH**.

You were about to type in a question about John when the trolls beat you to it, the screen filling up with a rainbow of text.

?TC: KaRbRo WhY iSn’T jOhNbRo In ThIs CoNvErSaTiOn? :o(

?AT: uH YEAH, wHERE’S JOHN? sHOULDN’T HE BE, uH, aDDED TO THIS CONVERSATION,,,? }:(

?CA: wwait. john isn’t here? wwhy are wwe havvin this convversation then?

?CT: D --> Is Heir John alright? Is he feeling STRONG and e%ceptionally healthy at the moment?

?AC: >:33 < *ac is sharpening her claws in case john is in trouble*

?AC: >:33 < *ac is now prepared to sink her claws into anyone who hurts or has hurt john*

?CC: Is )(e alright!? O)(, I )(ope everyfin is fine! 38(

?TA: he better be alriight or my headache2 wiill come back wiith a f**kiing vengence f**kiing he**

?GC: 1S H3 N3GL3CT1NG H1S H34LTH 4G41N? >:/

?CG: KUGIYGjc75.;5utfuFturyxTuf,68yvi!*¥’lInknil

Dave snorts beside you, snickering softly. You raise a bemused eyebrow at the Strider and he merely shrugs at you.

“It’s funny when he rages.” He drawls at you.

In return, you scoff softly and roll your eyes, turning your attention back to the floating screen in front of the both of you.

CTG: haha keyboard smash

CTG: calm down karkitty

?AC: :00 < *ac gasps in surprise*

?AC: XDD < we share the same nickname for karkat!!!

?CG: I AM “THIS” CLOSE TO BANNING PRETTY MUCH EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU FROM THIS MEMO! F**KING HE**!

?GC: K4RKL3S, C4LM DOWN. >:]

?CG: NO I WILL NOT CALM DOWN!

?TC: ShOoOoOoOoOsH, kArBrO. sHoOoOsH.

The entire chatbox stopped and you and Dave side-eyed each other. You weren’t sure if you should restart the conversation, but CG, Karkat, responded.

Ping!

?CG: ...

?TC: fEeLiNg BeTtEr KaRbRo? HoNk. :o)

?CG: YEAH...YEAH, OKAY. THANKS, GAMZEE.

?TC: No PrObLeM kArBrO. hOnK hOnk! :o)

CTG: also hey wheres jade

CTG: jade is a bada** that deserves to be on this sh**ty memo

?CG: SHE’S BUSY UNFREEZING FROGS WITH ANOTHER YOU, STRIDER. AND SINCE OTHER YOU AND HER ARE WORKING TOGETHER WITH THE FROG STUFF, SHE’S TOO BUSY TO ANSWER THIS D**N MEMO AT THE MOMENT. PLUS, SHE’S NOT AWARE YET THAT JOHN’S FROM THE FUTURE.

?CG: ANYWAYS, BACK ON TRACK. I RECENTLY FINISHED MY CONVERSATION WITH JOHN. HE KNOWS WHAT HE’S GONNA BE DOING IN LATER ON.

?AT: yOU MEAN,,,tHE MISSION IN THE PAST? oH MAN,,,bUT ISN’T THAT GONNA BE ROUGH FOR HIM? i MEAN, uH, aLTERNIA ISN'T EXACTLY THAT NICE,,,

?AT: wELL I MEAN, pAST ALTERNIA IS A LOT HARSHER,,, }:(

?CG: JOHN’S NOT GOING ALONE, F**KFACE. HE’S TAKING THE SPRITE VERSION OF STRIDER WITH HIM. SPRITE-STRIDER KNOWS THE MOST OUT OF ALL OF US ABOUT THE FUTURE AND HE CAN SPEAK PRETTY GOOD ALTERNIAN.

?CG: ALSO, SOLLUX, I HAVE A NEW PROJECT FOR YOU. YOU’RE GONNA BE WORKING TOGETHER WITH SOMEONE.

?TA: really

?TA: who am ii gonna work wiith kk

?CG: STRIDER’S GUARDIAN. BRO STRIDER.

Dave tenses beside you slightly and he gazes at the gray words closely. You blink and gaze at the Strider with concern before shuffling a bit closer to him slightly. When your shoulder gently bumps with his, Dave relaxes slightly.

Dave has told you how Bro’s been acting different--how he was manipulated up until now. You were also alarmed by the news, but you slowly processed the words he had told you. You can tell Dave was conflicted on how he should feel about this revelation, but you see that the young Strider is leaning more towards concern for Bro. You smile mentally; Dave was already beginning to mend his bonds with his brother.

Dave leans slightly against you and you do the same, providing each other support as more text fills the screen.

Ping!

?TA: ii2 that really the guy2 name

?TA: 2eriiou2ly

?CG: YES. I THINK. OR HE COULD BE SH**TING AROUND WITH ME. ANYWAYS, THE MAIN POINT IS THAT YOU’RE WORKING WITH BRO IN BUILDING SOME SORT OF ANDROID BODY FOR AN AR. APPARENTLY, JOHN HAS ALREADY MADE CONTACT WITH HIS POST-SCRATCH PITY FRIENDS.

?GA: Already? How Did He Achieve This Feat?

?CG: I PROBABLY GAVE HIM THE CODE FOR MY GRUBTOP LATER ON. I SHOULD PROBABLY DO THAT SOON.

?CG: ANYWAYS, SOLLUX, THIS IS ACTUALLY YOUR CHOICE IF YOU WANT TO HELP BRO. JOHN’S JUST ASKING SINCE YOU’RE TECH-SMART.

?TA: john2 a2kiing for my help

?TA: well challenge f**kiing accepted

?TA: iill help thii2 bro wiith buiildiing the androiid

?TA: iit 2hould be fun

Your fingers quickly type a response before anyone else can speak. Lavender text enters the screen.

CTT: I know you have already said that John is alright, but I still worry for him. How is he doing, Mr. Vantas?

?CG: WHAT THE F**K.

?CG: GAH, F**KING FINE. HERE’S THE GOG D**N REPORT.

?CG: JOHN IS MENTALLY STABLE. WHILE IT DOES LOOK LIKE HE COULD USE SOME SLEEP, HE LOOKS LIGHTER, HAPPIER AND ALL THAT SH**. HOWEVER, THERE’S A BUNCH OF BANDAGES PEEKING OUT FROM UNDER HIS GOD TIER SHIRT--IT’S ALL WRAPPED AROUND HIS LEFT SHOULDER.

You stiffen slightly in mild surprise at this information. You had seen his arm bandaged when you went Grimdark.  But the wound on his shoulder…? It wasn’t there the last time you had seen him...

?CG: I TRIED GOING THROUGH THE TIMELINE TO SEE WHEN HE GOT THE INJURY. I THEN CAME ACROSS A PART WHERE THE SCREEN WAS JUST COMPLETELY F**KING SPAZZING WITH GREEN SPARKS! I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THAT TIME PERIOD, BUT MY GUESS IS THAT THAT WAS WHEN JOHN GOT HIS SHOULDER INJURY.

?CG: BUT HE DOESN’T LOOK LIKE HE’S IN PAIN--AND THAT’S THE F**KING TRUTH. HE’S HOLDING UP JUST F**KING FINE. ALSO, JADE’S GUARDIAN IS WITH HIM; HE’S IN GOD TIER FORM: A ROGUE OF HOPE. BRO IS THERE TOO.

?CG: ALL IN ALL, JOHN IS FINE, SAFE, AND NOT DOING ANYTHING STUPID THAT WOULD THREATEN HIS SURPRISINGLY ENDANGERED, PUNY LIFE. NOW STOP ASKING QUESTIONS AND LET’S GET BACK ON TRACK TO WHAT I WANT TO TALK ABOUT! I WANT TO GET SH** DONE FOR GOG’S D**N SAKE!

You read the gray words with mild surprise. So...Mr. Harley had reached God Tier? You were wondering where that man had been. But then...how did Mr. Harley reach God Tier? On his own? You have a feeling that he had help…

Ping!

?CC: OOOOOOO)(!!!! 38D

?CC: Congratulations to Mr. )(arley in ac)(ieving God Tier!

?CG: YES WE’RE ALL SO F**KING FASCINATED THAT GLITTER IS MIXING WITH OUR TEARS OF SICKENING HAPPINESS AND RAINBOWS ARE COMING OUT OF OUR A**ES. SORRY, FEFERI, FOR MY D**N MOUTH JUST WON’T SHUT UP, BUT I’D LIKE TO MOVE ON.

?CC: )(ee)(ee! It’s okay Karcrab! I understand, glub, glub! 38)

?CG: GREAT.

?CG: ANYWAYS, WHILE JOHN WILL SOON BE SENT TO PAST ALTERNIA, WE HAVE TO PREPARE FOR A BIG BATTLE IN ONE AND A HALF SWEEPS. AND TO YOU HUMANS, THAT’S THREE YEARS.

?CG: JOHN DIDN’T COME BACK IN TIME TO SAVE OUR A**ES JUST SO THOSE SAID A**ES GET DEMOLISHED BY THE CHERUB CALI-F**K!

??? divineDestruction [ ?DD ] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.

?DD: hell0

?CG: WHAT.

?CG: DAMARA!? IS THAT YOU? WHEN THE F**K DID YOU GET A TROLLHANDLE?

?DD: recent

?DD: f0unD grubt0p

?DD: j0hn safe?

?CG: YEAH YEAH. HE’S FINE. YOU DIDN’T EVEN TRY TO SCROLL UPWARDS TO READ THE BEGINNING OF THIS F**KING CONVERSATION?

?DD: ...

?DD: b*****D hurt j0hn

?CG: WAIT YOU KNOW WHO GAVE JOHN THE SHOULDER INJURY?

?DD: 0bvi0us

?CG: ...

?CG: ...OH. RIGHT. AFTER HE DROPPED YOU OFF HE...

?CG: GOG D**N IDIOT! HE SAID HE WOULD BE FINE!

You frown slightly at this and move your hands forward to type--Karkat’s text quickly fills the screen again.

?CG: GUH, I’LL HAVE TO YELL AT HIM LATER.

?CG: BACK ON TRACK. WE HAVE THREE YEARS UNTIL WE END UP FIGHTING LORD ENGLISH, THE CONDESCE, AND LORD JACK.

?CG: AND BEFORE YOU ASK, I LEFT JACK NOIR OUT BECAUSE JOHN’S TOLD ME THAT JACK IS BEING...”NICE”. JOHN DOESN’T UNDERSTAND EITHER, BUT HE TOLD US TO BE CAREFUL AROUND JACK AND TO STAY ON GUARD FOR NOW.

You narrow your eyes at this. Jack was being…’nice’? You’re not sure what to think about that...

?CG: AND HERE COMES THE MAIN PART OF THIS SH**TY MEMO. HOPEFULLY YOU GUYS UNDERSTAND THAT WE NEED TO SHARPEN UP ON FIGHTING, PLAN SH** TOGETHER, GET REST, AND MEET NEW FRIENDS.

?CG: JOHN’S ALREADY BEGINNING TO CONTACT THE POST-SCRATCH VERSIONS OF HIMSELF, DAVE, ROSE, AND JADE. HE THINKS THAT THERE MIGHT BE A WAY TO GET THEM TO GOD TIER LEVEL...

?CG: ALL IN ALL, I WANT EVERYONE TO FOCUS! LORD ENGLISH IS THE MAIN GOAL HERE AND HE’S A SH**TY LOAD OF GLOBES. JOHN’S GIVEN ME THE CODE TO HIS JOURNAL SO I KNOW A BIT MORE ON WHAT WE’RE DEALING WITH. AND HERE’S THE SIMPLE AND GOG TO HONEST TRUTH: OUR ODDS AREN’T EXACTLY THE BEST, SO THAT’S WHY I WANT ALL OF YOU OFF OF YOUR F**KING FAT A**ES! YEAH, WE CAN TAKE RESTS AND ALL THAT SH**, BUT I WILL HAVE NO F**KING PATIENCE WITH ANYONE WHO F**KS THIS UP!

?CG: WE HAVE ONE AND A HALF SWEEPS GUYS, AND I DO NOT WANT JOHN TO HAVE COME BACK HERE FOR NOTHING! I’LL INFORM YOU GUYS MORE ONCE THE JOURNEY BEGINS. AM I F**KING CLEAR!?

?GC: 4S CL34R 4S MY 3Y3S1GHT B3FOR3 1T GOT F**K3D UP. >:]

?AA: y0u are very clear, karkat. 0h this is exciting. ^u^

?TA: we get iit kk no 2h**tiing around and all that

?AC: :33 < *ac purrs with determination* i understand loud and clear, karkitty!

?CT: D --> I STRONGLY understand what’s going on. I am prepared to be at 100% for this journey.

?AT: i’M, uH, rEADY FOR THIS TOO, i DON’T WANT TO SEE JOHN SAD AGAIN, }>:)

?TC: I sEcOnD tHaT mY mIrAcUlOuS bRoThEr, TaVbRo. JoHnBrO’lL nEvEr GeT tHaT sAd LoOk In HiS eYeS eVeR aGaIn. HONK. >:o)

?CC: OOOOOOOO)()()()()(!!!! I’M R---E---ELY, R---E---ELY ---EXCIT---ED~! O)(, and I understand w)(at you’re saying, Karcrab! 38D

?CA: our odds aren’t vvery great.

?CA: but i'd rather die wwith a friend than fight along side wwith an enemy. bring it f**ktards.

?AG: Hoooooooonestly, you didn’t have to tell us aaaaaaaanything, Karakat. I would 8e a8solutely willing to get my hands on the 8*****d that hurt my Little 8luuuuuuuue~ ;;;)

?GA: I Too Am Prepared To Get Ready For The Long, Strenuous Sweeps Ahead.

?DD: f**k l0rD D**k

You smile softly at this. So many of these trolls were brimming with energy and determination. It was amusing to see how protective they were over John.

CTT: And of course we humans are also in. John is a very good friend of ours, so we would've done this despite your encouraging words, Mr. Vantas.

?CG: UGH. DON’T F**KING CALL ME THAT. JUST CALL ME “VANTAS” OR “KARKAT”. WHATEVER YOU F**KING PREFER. JUST DON’T CALL ME “MR. VANTAS”.

CTT: Understood.

?CG: AND STRIDER, WHERE’S YOUR F**KING ANSWER!?

You blink in idle surprise at that and then notice that Dave had, indeed, not responded yet. You glance over at Dave and see that he’s thinking about something before he quickly brushes his hands over to respond.

CTG: yeah yeah karkles i get it

CTG: im totes on board with kicking a**es and saving the universe

CTG: im just curious on how ALL of you trolls know john

CTG: i mean the way you guys type

CTG: yall have some sort of deep connection with him?

CTG: i dont blame you

CTG: john the sad sushi roll is someone everyone would want to protect except for lord d**k and a few selected others

CTG: but you guys just seem really familiar with him

You also incline your head as you finish reading the red text. You had also wondered slightly as to why the trolls seemed so protective over John. They all seemed to come together at once when John came to mind. You yourself are about to type and ask--

Creak.

...Dave and you pause at the noise. You share a glance with Dave before you both quickly move off of the bed. You grab the Tumor captchalogue card out of the green box and hold it in your right hand. You then captchalog John’s note, briskly creeping over to where you had set up the projector for your holographic hubtop.

CTT: Please excuse us for a moment. It seems that Dave and I have a...visitor.

?GA: Do Be Careful, Rose. It Might Be A Derse Agent.

You smile softly at the concern before your smile slipped away, face cold with seriousness. With that, you shut your hubtop for now and tuck it under your arm. You jog over to Dave’s side. There’s another creak outside of the room before the door handle jiggles. Dave presses his back to the wall as he stands on the blindspot of the door; you do the same and stand beside him.

Click, creeeaak…

The door opens. Dave and you silently watch as...a Dersite moves into the room, missing Dave and you since the door was blocking his view of you two. The Dersite is a little meaty, his face pulled in a scowl as he holds a walkie-talkie in his left hand and a sword in his right. With a huff, he slowly turns to survey the room, turning his walkie-talkie on.

“The brats ain’t here, Dignitary.” The Dersite grunts, holding the walkie-talkie closer to his face. “I don’t know wh--”

He stops himself and he quickly raises his sword up when he finally catches sight of you and Dave standing by the door. The Dersite growls, lunging forward with slash of a sword. Dave clicks his tongue and brings a sword out of his Strife Deck--actually, the Strider was wielding only half of a sword with an ornate hilt.

Dave darts in front of you--ha, he really is a Knight--and deflects the slash. The Derse Agent snarls and attacks aga--Dave beheads the assassin easily with a swift sidestep, movements graceful and deadly, and a slash through the neck. You watch the head and the body hit the floor; Dave shakes his blade out to the side, getting rid of the red blood on the silver steel with a flick of his wrist.

Dave then looks back over you. You huff out a sigh before the both of your move back to his bed, ignoring the Dersite's dead body at the moment. You quickly resetup your hubtop, projecting the holographic screen in the air again.

CTT: Alright, we are back. It seems your guess was correct, Kanaya. It was a Derse Agent.

CTG: d**n i got blood in my derse room floors man

CTG: that sh** aint gonna be easy to clean out

?GC: WOOOOW, STR1D3R. QU1CK 4ND RUTHL3SS. N1C3. >:]

CTG: dude it was his fault

CTG: he totally went and tripped over air like youve never seen before and into the way of my blade

CTG: oh wait im getting sidetracked

CTG: how do you guys know john

There is a bit of a pause. Dave and you wait patiently for one of the trolls to respond. Surprisingly, the troll with indigo text responds first.

?CT: D --> It is e%tremely hard to e%plain, but Heir John is...a mi% between a moirail and lusus to us. He is a person who has visited us in the past, using his Retcon powers.

CTG: what

?AC: :33 < what equihiss means to say is that john used his special powers to travel through the timeline of our world and he took care of us when we were grubs!

?AT: hE, uH, hAD TO LEAVE US EVENTUALLY THOUGH,,,bECAUSE, yOU KNOW, tHE FIGHT WITH LORD ENGLISH WAS COMING SOON AND HE COULDN’T STAY WITH US FOREVER,

?AG: Johnny 8oy promised us that we would meet each other once more in the future. So when he had to leave…

?TA: kk wasnt two happy

?CA: it wwould kinda explain wwhy kar hates john so much at the beginning before he mellowwed out a little.

?CC: We didn’t know muc)( about Jo)(n at the beginning, but we understood t)(at )(e )(ad gone t)(roug)( a lot of t)(ings.

You blink in surprise at this new information.

CTT: So you’re all saying that...John took care of you when you were all children? Or when you were...what was the term...ah, “grubs”.

?AA: yes. we had n0 idea wh0 he was at the beginning, but he t00k care 0f us. he raised us, and 0ur lusi were surprisingly peaceful with him.

?GC: 1 OW3 H1M 4 LOT TOO. H3 T4UGHT M3 HOW TO “S33” 4FT3R 4LL.

CTG: not to sound like a downer but you said john was protecting you

CTG: how did you get blind  

CTG: he was protecting you right

?GC: 4N 1NC1D3NT W1TH 4 FLOCK OF W1LD F34TH3RB34STS. 4ND Y3S, H3 D1D PROT3CT M3. 1F H3 H4DN’T B33N TH3R3, 1 WOULD’V3 GOTT3N SOM3TH1NG MUCH WORS3 TH4N BL1NDN3SS. 1’LL T3LL YOU 4BOUT 1T L4T3R STR1D3R.

?CG: ALRIGHT, NOW THAT WE TALKED ABOUT OUR PAST LIVES AND ALL THAT SH**, I’M KICKING EVERYONE OFF THIS MEMO UNLESS YOU ALL JUST LEAVE WILLINGLY! GET OUT. WE’LL TALK LATER.

?CC: O)( Y---EA)(!!! We’ll be meeting each other on the Meteor reely SOON!!! I’m so glubbing ---EXCIT---ED! 38D

?CA: wwe wwon’t be able to meet john yet? that sucks.

?GA: Rose, Be Careful When Setting Off The Tumor. You’ll Be In Your God Tier Form Despite Your Death...

You smile softly at this, chuckling. You ignore the way Dave nudges at you with his elbow, giving you an eyebrow wiggle.

CTT: Don’t worry, Kanaya. I’m not too afraid of death. Plus, I get to take Strider down with me.

Dave makes a mock gasp of surprise, swatting at your shoulder like a scandalized grandma for his own amusement. He then typed his own response into the screen.

CTG: aw man youre so cruel rose

CTG: like the octopus queen in the little mermaid

CTG: you have me in your cold life-sucking grip of unforgiving black tendrils that will drag me down into the deepest darkest part of the ocean

CTG: d**n ill never get to meet my prince eric

CTG: my true love will be gone from my clutches

CTT: You’re such a drama queen, Dave.

CTG: oh you know me

CTG: gotta protect my title of being the best drama queen there is

CTG: like sh** i should probably start crying every ten minutes and begin monologues of how i wish i had a bottle of aj right now

CTG: ill need a dress too with the whole queen shebang

?CG: OH MY GOG. EVERYONE, JUST LEAVE!

?AC: :33 < *ac waves exupurrantly at her furiends, prowling onto ct’s shoulders* s33 you soon!!!!

?CT: D --> We shall be taking our leave then. Stay safe and STRONG.

??? arsenicCatnip [ ?AC ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

??? centaursTesticle [ ?CT ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

?CC: Bye everyone! We’ll sea each other reel soon! C’mon Eridan, let’s go have a moirail talk. 38D

?CA: alright fef. sea the rest of you all later i guess.

??? cuttlefishCuller [ ?CC ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

??? caligulasAquarium [ ?CA ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

?TA: cmon aa you 2hould go get some re2t

?AA: i’m h0nestly fine, but i guess an0ther nap w0uldn’t hurt. will y0u j0in me? 0u0

?TA: 2ure ii gue22

?TA: ii can re2t for now

??? apocalypseArisen [ ?AA ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

??? twinArmageddons [ ?TA ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

?TC: oOoOh...A nAp SoUnDs MoThErF**kInG nIcE. hOnK.

?TC: tAvBrO, wOuLd yOu LiKe To JoIn Me In ThE pEaCeFuL rEaLmS oF sLuMbEr? :o)

?AT: uH,,,sURE GAMZEE, sLEEP, uH, sOUNDS NICE, }:)

??? terminallyCapricious [ ?TC ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

??? adiosToreador [ ?AT ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

?DD: bye 0u0

?DD: will g0 eat c00kies

??? divineDestruction [ ?DD ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

?AG: Weeeeeeeell, I guess that’s my cue to leave. Terezi, how a8out we sharpen up or swordsmanship while we w8? Loser has to m8ke the other their favorite snaaaaaaaack~ ::::)

?GC: H3H3H3...

?GC: YOU’R3 ON, M1NDF4NG. >:]

?AG: Haha, m8ke it worth my while, Redglaaaaaaaare. ;;;;)

??? gallowsCalibrator [ ?GC ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

??? arachnidsGrip [ ?AG ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

?GA: Karkat You Should Also Rest.

?CG: I’M NOT F**KING TIRED.

?GA: Actually, It Was Not A Suggestion. You Will Rest Or I’ll Tell John.

?CG: WHAT!? THAT’S SO F**KING PETTY! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU, KANAYA! PLUS, JOHN IS BUSY. YOU WOULDN’T DISTURB HIM WOULD YOU?

?GA: I Can And I Will If You Don’t Head To A Recuperacoon Right Now And Sleep.

?CG: ...

?GA: ...

?CG: UGH. FINE.

CTG: kanaya 1 karkat 0

?CG: SHUT UP STRIDER! F**K OFF AND DIE!

?CG banned CTG from memo.

Dave snickers beside you and you huff out an amused chuckle. You then sigh softly and turn your attention to the glowing screen.

CTT: Well. I guess we shall meet and greet each other sometime soon. Farewell.

?GA: Goodbye Rose. See You Until Then.

CURRENT tentacleTherapist [ CTT ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

??? grimAuxiliatrix [ ?GA ] RIGHT NOW left memo.

?CG closed memo.

With a small yawn, you shut down your hubtop. You squint over at the dead Dersite Agent on the floor with a small grimace before looking over at Dave.

==> Rose: Offer a change in scenery.

“Let’s head over to my room for now.” You captchalog your hubtop. “The air in there would smell much better until we reach our destination in the Furthest Ring.”

Dave merely shrugs at you but he nods, drifting off of his bed. He floats over to his window, turning his head slightly to look at you over his shoulder, dim light reflecting off of his shades. You also float off of his bed and drift after him. The both of you look at his room one more time before flying out towards your tower.

==> Be: Bro a few hours ago after the meeting on Skaia.

You are now Bro. After John warped away to God-knows-where, you gave a final salute to everyone else in the group before flying up into the sky. It was apparent that Balthazar was gonna go with Sprite-Dave to LOFAF; the salamander said he wanted to visit and see the iguanas and the recently thawed-out frogs. James and Rox are already heading to some science place to make the ecto-babies.

So, here you are, flying through space, heading towards LOHAC. You whistle lazily as you drift through the darkness, eyes on a red planet that’s a handful of football fields away from where you are currently flying. As you drift through the sky, your gaze catches a familiar, gray starship in the distance. You blink and immediately pause in the air.

Jake. That’s Jake’s ship, isn’t it? You lift your shades from your face and narrow your eyes sharply at the starship in the distance; it was drifting near LOHAC. James and Rox had told you that the adventurous Brit was looking for you before, but then he had suddenly lost contact with your two friends. F**king dare devil; Jake better be alive.

You start to fly over to the ship, shades slipping back onto your face--the ship disappears in a flash of green light.

You freeze in the air and you widen your eyes. That warping ability--Jack Noir? You quickly pull your katana out of your Strife Deck and watch the spot where Jake’s starship used to be. Your ears strain to catch the slightest sound…

...Nothing. No flap of wings. No growling or evil chuckling. You narrow your gaze and scan the area again.

No one was nearby. But then what happened to Jake’s ship? What would Jack do with the ship? Sh**, had Jake been captured of something? F**k. Your face twists with displeasure. F**king he**...

...You have to work on things one at a time. Gritting your teeth, you turn your head to LOHAC, blade still gripped tightly in your right hand. Without anymore hovering around, you fly towards the molten planet. It doesn’t take long for you to feel familiar, smoke-like clouds brush against your face. You dive through the last of the gray smoke and burst through, taking in a deep breath of warm air. This heated air was much more familiar to you than the cool, crisp atmosphere of LOWAS.

==> Bro: Find Dave.

You start to focus, blinking as everything started to gray out rapidly, heat building in your eyes--but not in an uncomfortable way. You then find different souls popping into existence--but you focus more on the bright, red soul that throbs and flickers with fire. You note that there are a few...scars, but they are small, fading.

It was your little bro’s soul.

Blinking once more, the colors return and everything is back to normal. You fly towards the red soul and stop at some sort of temple. You incline your head and raise an eyebrow at the decor before landing at the entrance of the golden temple. Shouldering your katana, you calmly walk through the doorway and dart your gaze around behind your shades.

The red soul was just a few floors up. With a roll of your shoulders, you start walking. While floating around was convenient and all, you like to stretch your legs out once in awhile. You soon found the stairs and began to walk up.

Really, the climb was only like a handful of minutes. While you were walking up the steps, the sound of your footsteps echoing a little, you notice that there were...piles of your puppets lying around?

You can’t help the snort that finds its way out of your mouth--because what the f**k? How the he** did all these plush butts get all the way here from the apartment? Did Dave actually bring those colorful puppets with him? Now that’s just f**king hilarious.

You smile for a brief moment as you raise a bemused eyebrow at another pile of puppets. But there your smile slowly drops as you reach your destination, finishing climbing the last of the steps.

Dave’s back is turned towards you at the moment as he sits on the ground; it looks like he’s tinkering with something. He’s also wearing a black suit and slacks--casual and bada**. There’s also a bunch of red crocodiles in the room, but you ignore them for now. You raise your left hand up, right hand still holding your blade, resting the katana against your shoulder as you rap your knuckles on the wall beside you.

“Knock, knock, li’l man.”

Woah. Dave, even though he’s seated, jumps about half a foot off of the ground, shoulders hunching. You can see that his hands are twitching to reach into his Strife Deck, but your little bro seems to relax when he recognizes your voice.

Dave stands up and spins around quickly. His shades are off--ah, he must've been cleaning them or something because his left hand is holding his shades and a piece of cloth. Your little bro stares at you for a moment, his emotion plain for all to see.

“...Bro…?” He cautiously asks.

You merely nod, lips twitching upwards slightly in a small smirk.

“Sup, li’l man.” You drawl softly. “I told you I’d come back late--”

You blink and tilt your head to the side to avoid a punch. You store your katana away when Dave follows up with a kick to your side. You quickly avoid the attack again, stepping to the side.

The one-sided fight continues for a moment, Dave continuing to rain blows on you while you block or dodge them. While this mini strife is happening, you note that Dave has gotten faster, stronger--and his movements are much more fluid and less stiff. God d**n he’s gonna totally surpass you.

You squat down when a kick goes for your head. You idly note the broken record symbol on Dave’s suit; it was right above where his heart should be. Suddenly, Dave brings his sword out from his Strife Deck, storing his aviators away for now. You blink in mild surprise before raising your hands above your head to catch the blade between your palms when it was swung down.

You peer up into the blazing eyes of Dave. His eyebrows are furrowed but the rest of his face is rather stoic, an icy-calm look. You’ve seen that expression on John before, a face of silent, burning determination. And speaking of John...d**n, it’s f**ked up that the kid had to go through so much.

“--ker!”

You blink and snap back to attention when Dave had suddenly spoke. Your little bro flashsteps away and you let go of his sword at the same time. Dave now stands across from you, chest rising and falling a bit faster as he glares at you, storing his sword back into his Strife Deck. Welp, you pretty much expected anger. You are a d**k after all--

He flashsteps in front of you, fist raised again.

You sigh at this and prepare to accept the blow this time. Dave has to let his anger out somehow. You sigh again and shut your eyes behind your shades, waiting for a blossom of pain on any part of your body.

...

…...No pain. You blink your eyes open and then see the fist and inch away from your face, the hand clenched so tightly that the knuckles were white. You blink again and peer past the fist look at your little brother. His head is tilted downwards, so his bangs are in the way of his face; you can’t read him. You’re not sure if you’re allowed to speak, so you patiently wait for Dave to say something.

“...You…” You perk up when Dave speaks. “...I can’t f**king believe you.”

You merely gaze back as Dave lowers his fist from your face. Your little bro continues to look at the floor for a moment before lifting his head. You pause at the raw emotion in Dave’s eyes.

“You f**king b*****d. I can’t believe--” Dave inhales sharply, red eyes blazing. “--...I can’t believe you f**king died.”

You blink in idle surprise at that behind your shades. Did Dave deduce that by your God Tier clothes? Or did he--

“I saw your body and John’s body on LOWAS.” Oh d**n, so that’s what happened? “That was a pretty f**ked up sight to witness.”

...You…...don’t really know what to say to that. You expected more than just: “Hey, you died? Well, that pisses me off.” You blink again behind your shades and furrow your eyebrows slightly as you look down at Dave. You imagined your brother to simply be pissed with you in general because hey, a small patch-up after a strife doesn’t erase 13 years of trauma. But Dave is mad that you died--?

“You got mind manipulated.” Dave states.

You widen your eyes at that but relax your form, furrowing your eyebrows to make it look like you’re confused outwardly. He can’t tell what you’re feeling with your shades in the way.

“What are you talking about?” How the f**k does your little man know? Did John tell him? F**k, maybe you should’ve told the Egbert-kid that you wanted to talk to Dave about it instead of John telling--

You’re brought out of your distracting musings when everything is suddenly brighter. Blinking your eyes rapidly, you instantly narrow your gaze at Dave, who has your pointed shades in his right hand. You sigh exasperatedly and take a step forward, hand raising to nab your shades back.

“Hey--”

“I don’t hate you.” He suddenly said. You pause, staring into his red eyes; you bet your eyes look wide to him as he gazes calmly up at you. “I don’t loathe you. I don’t want you dead. And everything I just said is the f**king truth, Bro.”

Dave sighs, drawn out and tired as he looks down at the floor for a long moment. You continue not to say anything because you want to hear what he has to say first--but you’re also minorly shocked. Dave groans and mutters something under his breath before looking over at you, red eyes narrowed sharply.

“...Look...I don’t know everything about what has happened with Cal, but I want to understand. You and I are gonna sit our a**es down when everything has calmed the f**k down.” Dave then looks at you with uncertainty, eyebrows furrowing. “...I just…...I’ll admit I’m so f**king confused. My mind is as scrambled as f**king eggs for breakfast. Aw he**, I don’t know what the he** I’m saying anymore--like f**k, should I be put in a straightjacket and tossed into a cushioned room? I’m probably sounding crazy to you. F**king he**, I’m ramblin’ now--faster than the gog d**n roadrunner in Looney Tunes. But no, I’m speakin’ faster than that speedy chicken--the d**n birds got nothin’ on me and--”

Pfft--!”

Ah sh**. You can’t help it. You lift a gloved hand to your face and chuckle, hiding your eyes from view. Dave stops talking instantly and you can feel his eyes watching you. You can practically see the dumbfounded face he has without even looking. F**k, all Striders are a lot more emotional without their shades.

Your shoulders are shaking with suppressed laughter, and you can sense that Dave’s becoming incredulous--which you don’t really blame him for. D**n, when was the last time since you laughed? With your left hand, you reach out blindly and mess up Dave’s hair. Your little bro let’s out a soft yelp of indignation as you slowly drop your right hand from your face.

Dave is looking up at you with wide eyes as your hand rests on top of your little bro’s head. His red eyes are darting across your face, acting like it was the very first time he’s ever seen it clearly--well...it has been awhile since you haven’t worn your shades.

“...We’ll talk. Don’t worry--I’m not gonna avoid you like a d**k since you’ve told me you want to know.” You murmur softly. “You deserve that and much more, kiddo.”

Dave is still staring at you owlishly--and d**n, shades really do a lot in hiding a Strider’s emotions. Awkwardly, you remove your hand from Dave’s head. Your little bro’s mind seems to reboot after you move and he furrows his eyebrows as he studies you--oh wait. You had to give Dave a sword or something.

You reach into your Strife Deck and pull out Royal Deringer. Dave blinks in surprise at the blade as you hand it to him. Your little bro hesitantly accepts the weapon. As he studies the blade, you speak.

“It’s from John.” Dave starts in surprise and looks at you with raised eyebrows as you continue to speak. “He says it’s for you.”

Dave lowers his gaze back to the sword, stepping back for a moment. He gazes at the blade before swiftly cutting through the air in a flurry of movement, testing the weight. After a handful of seconds, Dave stores his new sword away into his Strife Deck. He looks over at you, shoulders a little hunched out of awkwardness of the conversation before, but he looked lighter, more relaxed around you.

“Thanks…” He murmured. “And here.”

He tosses your shades back to you, and you catch them. You look down at your shades and decide to simply hook them onto your God Tier shirt. You look back up at Dave, and he seems a little stunned. Perhaps he guessed that you would put your shades back on immediately to shield your emotions from view. With a sigh, you walk over and start herding him over to a pile of torn up puppets; it’ll be an okay substitute for a bed for now.

“Alright, li’l man. Time to sleep.” You drawl.

“Wha--? No, wait. Was your ‘friend’ John all this time?” Dave demands. “How the he** did you even come in contact with him?”

You merely shrug as you finally push Dave onto the puppet pile. Your little bro huffs and glares--haha, he’s totally pouting though--up at you. You merely smirk down at him, arms crossed over your chest. But then your smirk slowly drops and your tone becomes a little somber.

“...The note John’s gonna send to you guys in the green box should answer most of your questions.” You pause for a moment before speaking again. “Just...try to understand what Egbert’s going through, okay?”

Dave looks like he wants to barrage you with questions, but he holds his tongue. He stares at you for a long moment, studying your face...before sighing, flopping back onto the pile of torn up puppets below him. He sighs again, more exaggerated than the first one.

“...Fine.” He finally groans. “And I’m gonna sleep and wake up on Derse, right?”

“Yep.”

“......Will we meet up again?”

The question was said softly, as if Dave didn’t want you to hear his question. With a huff, you squat down and ruffle his hair roughly. Dave bats your hand away with an irritated huff, but he then notices the small smile on your lips.

“Don’t worry too much, li’l man.” You incline your head and smirk. “I’m a stubborn a**hole and so is everyone else. We’ll meet up and be one big happy family, yeah?”

Dave stares at you with wide eyes for a moment before huffing, punching your shoulder lightly. His gaze softens and his shoulders slouch slightly. Whatever he had seen in your eyes must've comforted him.

“...Got it.” He drawls back, finally leaning back to rest properly on the pile of puppets. “......G’night, I guess.”

With one last look at you, Dave adjusts and closes his eyes. A handful of minutes slowly pass by before Dave’s breathing begins to even out a little. After a couple more minutes, he’s out like a light, snoring softly. You quirk your lips up into a small smile before standing up, reaching into your Strife Deck with a huff.

The ground shakes for a moment and dust showers down from the ceiling. Your smile thins into a stoic line as you then walk away from Dave, shouldering your katana. You hum softly as your feet softly tap against the ground. The shaking in the temple is getting a bit more violent as you walk down a massive hall.

You then stop walking and glance over your shoulder to see where Dave was. Your little bro was still peacefully snoozing away. There’s a loud roar and the shaking slows to a stop. You shut your eyes for a moment, sighing. You turn your gaze back forward to the hall.

Out of the shadowy part of the hall, lumbering giclopses came into view, their orange or yellow skin glimmering like oil under the light of the torches that were hanging on the walls. You sigh again and unhook your shades from your shirt, flicking them out before letting them settle over your eyes.

“Let us assist you, Thief of Heart.”

You blink in mild surprise at the unknown voice. You turn your head to the left this time and lower your gaze. It was one of those red crocodiles. Geez, did this one and all the other crocodiles hear the conversation? Most likely. The croc grins up at you, tiny sharp teeth glinting in the dim, torch light.

“The name’s Larry. My Clan and I would be honored to help you take on these beasts.” He chirped, molten rock dribbling past his lips.

You blink and look a little past Larry and see that the crocodiles that were around the room were now standing a bit defensively next to Dave’s sleeping body. You raise an eyebrow when a few belch out a small flame from their mouths. With smirk you merely tap your katana against your shoulder, looking back at the giclopses, basilisks, and ogres that came into view.

“Just don’t drop your guard.” You drawl, directing your words to the crocodile next to you.

“Of course.” Larry replies with a slight cackle in his voice, fire hissing at his lips as he stood on his haunches at the left of you. “Sir Dave has been a pleasant person to accompany. I would hate to see him or his family member harmed.”

You hum with interest before you lift your sword off of your shoulder, swinging your sword to the right. You incline your head as you take a step forward towards the approaching beasts in front of you.

“Well then, ladies and gentlemen,” You take another step forward as the towering creatures roar at you, shaking the temple walls around you as you smirk, torch light glinting off of your shades. “The moment you’ve all been waiting for.”

You dart forward, sword scraping the ground for a moment before you jumped up, Heart flowing off of your body in waves. Larry and the crocodiles support you from behind, fireballs spitting from their hissing mouths.

Man, you’ve been wanting to let loose again ever since your last fight with Jack Noir.

~~

You’re nearly dozing off now. Legs crossed and sitting down, your right elbow is propped on your thigh with your cheek resting on your palm. With a yawn, you glance at the red crocodiles milling about lazily, ‘nak’ing softly to each other.

It’s been a few hours since you’ve turned the giclopses and other beasts to mincemeat; your sword is back in your Strife Deck at the moment. You collected all of the grist once they were all defeated. Some beasts actually retreated from the battle, too scared to face death apparently.

With a yawn, you then lift your head from your palm, leaning back against the golden-colored wall behind you. Your hand drops down onto your lap as you lazily dart your gaze over to Dave. He’s still sleeping.

...John had told you what would happen though. This body of Dave would never wake up again. Dave would be revived as a god with his dream form after setting the Tumor off. You’re pretty much staying here until John arrives or something while you protect Dave’s sleeping form.

You then blink when you hear voices. The sound is soft, but your senses are pretty sharp. Perking up, your gaze focuses and the area grays out. Your eyes scan the area and looks past the walls of the temple. You search...and search...until you find some sort of island. You spot something and--hey, there’s John’s soul with the three mini souls…...wait, now there are four souls attached to the kid’s soul? What the f**k?

You then note the bright, golden soul next to John’s. The soul was pulsing with energy, and it was marked with its own scars, crisscrossing the golden light. You blink in mild surprise. Who was--?

Wait.

You stare at the golden soul for a while longer before slowly standing up. You brush your magenta pants a bit before glancing over at Larry.

“Hey, Larry. I’m leaving Dave to you, alright?”

The red crocodile merely grins lazily at you, waving sluggishly. The reptile was snuggling in a puddle of molten lava like it was the most normal thing in world...which was pretty true. This world was completely insane, so a crocodile lazily lolling about in lava is pretty normal.

“Of course, Sir Bro.” He chirps happily as he stretches in his puddle of lava.

When you told the little sh** your name, Larry’s been calling you ‘Sir Bro’ now. It’s getting on your nerves and you can tell this f**king lizard is enjoying himself. D**n you want to punt this croc into the gog d**n sea of lava. But he helped you in the fight, so he’s a cool little sh**.

You briskly walk out of the room and skip a few steps as you go down the stairs. You whistle a tune as you finally make it outside of the temple, squinting your gaze up at the sky before floating upwards. Once you’re high in the air, you fly over to where you see the souls, the area around you still gray except for the glowing orbs of light.

Once you see the island, you relax and color returns to the area. You fly above the island before diving down sharply, squinting your eyes at who was there. There’s John in his windsock hoodie and--...holy f**k. There’s Jake.

He’s dressed in yellow God Tier clothes. His adventurer hat is missing but he still has his dorky glasses and mustache. F**king b*****d was alive. But...he had to die in order to become a god. D**n. So Jacob still died in the end. F**king fantastic. You shake your head to dispel yourself of your musings.

John looks up first, eyes wide with surprise before he relaxes with recognition in his gaze. Jake looks up next and widens his eyes too, jaw dropping in shock.

“Yo.” You lift a hand to lazily wave at them as you land on the volcanic glass island.

==> Bro: Be the Reader.

==> Reader: Watch the Heir, Rogue, and Thief catch up with each other.

“Bro.” John spoke first, a relieved slouch in his shoulders. “Did Dave go to sleep?”

Bro yawned for a moment before responding, scratching the back of his head with his right hand.

“Yep. Dork’s asleep now. A bunch of crocodiles are looking out for him now. But he should be awake on Derse.” He drawled back.

John nodded slowly. Bro then turned his attention to Jacob, inclining his head as the Rogue of Hope raised a hand to wave at the Strider. The salt-n-pepper-haired explorer grinned sheepishly.

“‘Ello, chap!” He greeted cheerily. “I’ve been lookin’ everywhere for you earlier, but I guess I ended up getting myself offed by a Dersite that looked similar to my dog--”

“Jack killed you?” Bro asked, voice darkening. “What the f**k? Sh**, although I apreciate it, you didn’t have to go on a wild goose chase for me, Jake. I should’ve told you guys that I was gonna--”

John quickly stepped in, but it looked slightly comical since his teen body was shorter than the two adults. The Heir smiled awkwardly at Bro, hands raised in a placating way.

“Bro, don't blame yourself too much. And hear his story first, okay?”

Bro clicked his mouth shut, studying John for a moment...before he crossed his arms, flickering his gaze up to Jacob. With a sigh and a shrug, Bro made a ‘go on’ motion towards the Rogue. The adventurer huffed for a moment before opening his mouth to speak.

~~

“......Huh.” Was all Bro said after Jacob’s story of how he was revived.

While Jacob raised his eyebrows at the rather bland answer, John sighed and ran a hand through his hair. The Heir nervously brushed his thumb against the Light tattoo on his forehead for a moment before speaking.

“Yeah, I know. Jack’s motives are now...unknown. We’re not exactly sure what he wants.” John muttered, furrowing his eyebrows together. “Although I’m a bit weary about his, I’m grateful that Grandpa Harley’s fine.”

Jacob seemed to shift at the mention of his own name and looked at John. The ravenet noticed the movement and looked over at the Rogue. Jacob had this...look in his eyes that John was unable to decipher before the Rogue sent a cheery grin to the Heir. John blinked before opening his mouth to speak.

“...Did I say something wrong?” John asked softly, concerned for the other.

Jacob perked up before waving his arms in front of him, laughing softly.

“No, no! Not at all. It’s just…” The Rogue paused, a look of consideration crossing his face...before he spoke again. “...Just call me Pop. ‘Grandpa Harley’ sounds like a mouthful to me.”

John blinked, confused for a moment before he smiled brightly at the other.

“Uh, sure, Pop!”

Jacob stared at John for a moment before his expression melted into a fond smile. John was mildly confused by the...strong familiarity in the smile, but the Heir continued to smile at the Harley. With and awkward cough, John looked over at Bro, a nervous look in his eyes.

“Uh...Bro. Would you mind helping me with this thing I want to do for a friend?”

Bro lifted and eyebrow, looking at the adult-in-a-teen’s-body.

“...What kind of thing?”

“Er, stuff that's with robotics.” John fiddled with his hood, smiling nervously at Bro. “I want to make a body for my friend, an AR.”

Bro opened his mouth in mild surprise before closing it. He hummed thoughtfully for a moment before looking at John again.

“Instructions…?”

John blinked before smiling. Bro was accepting his request. Reaching into his captchalogue deck, the Heir pulled out his worn journal. Bro blinked in remembrance and accepted the blue notebook, captchalogging the journal to keep it safe properly. John continued to smile gratefully at Bro.

“Thanks. And would it be okay if a troll helped you out?” John smiled, but his eyes were filled with worry of making the Strider uncomfortable. “His name is Sollux. He’s also tech savvy.”

“Meh. Sure. Building an android body with an alien.” Bro drawled. “It’s been my lifelong dream, Egderp. How did you know?”

John merely huffed while Bro smirked. Jacob then made a noise of confusion, causing the two to turn and look at the Rogue. Jacob’s green eyes drifted between Bro and John, a curious light in his eues as he studied the two, holding his questions about the notebook back.

“Wait...how are the two of you so familiar with each other, John, Broderick?” He asked.

John chuckled, but the sound was sad, making Jacob’s heart clench a little. The ravenet moved his right hand up to massage his left shoulder, sighing softly. John stared at his shoes for a moment before lifting his gaze up to send Jacob a lopsided smile,

“That’s...a long story.” John murmured, already feeling most of his energy leaving his body. “I--”

“John, you’re gonna go and complete the Scratch.” Bro suddenly jumped in, reaching over to ruffle the teen’s hair quickly before grabbing Jacob by his hood. “I’m gonna take Jacob to the side and dump a sh** load of info onto him. I don’t need you to break down through your story. The happier you are, the happier everyone else is--now go. Both of us will be nearby.”

Before John could say anything, Jacob yelped as he was yanked away by Bro and into the air. The Heir watched with bemusement as the Rogue was heatedly scolding the Thief. Jacob was rubbing his neck with an accusing look on his face, Bro merely shrugged and said something in return with a smirk on his lips. John then huffed and slowly shook his head, amused, before turning attention to Beat Mesa; the giant disk was floating nearby.

John floated off of the island and started to head over to Beat Mesa.

Ping!

The ravenet blinked in surprise and inclined his head as his iGlasses lit up. The Heir opened up a chat box and blinked in mild surprise. It was Past-Karkat. John smiled lopsidedly at this. Oh boy. The Heir wondered how this conversation will go.

-- carcinoGeneticist [ CG ] began trolling ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 2:16 --

CG: ATTENTION, YOU F**KING B*****D.

CG: I’M HERE TO ENLIGHTEN YOU ON HOW MUCH I F**KING HATE YOU AND YOUR WORTHLESS LIFE.

John winced at this, his smile becoming a little shaky.

He didn’t need Karkat to tell him how much of a f**k up he was.

{John don’t you f**king dare.} Dave quickly butted in, voice dark and pissed. {Dude, erase your mind of those sh**ty thoughts. This is Past-Karkat talking, so he doesn’t understand a single f**king thing. Keep it together, man.}

The comforting presence of the rest of his ghost-friends gently nudged him in the back of his mind, beating his inner demons into submission. With a shaky laugh, John continued to fly over the lava below him, heading towards Beat Mesa.

‘Thanks guys.’

By the time John focused his attention back onto the screen on his iGlasses, gray had filled up most of the chat box.

CG: YOU F**KED UP A BUNCH OF SH** THAT SHOULD’VE BEEN EASY FOR YOUR SIMPLE HUMAN MIND. BUT I GUESS YOU CAN’T DO THAT, HUH? LIKE THE THING WITH JACK.

CG: YOU LET THAT OVERPOWERED BARKBEAST MERGE WITH THE KERNELSPRITE.

CG: WHAT THE F**K IS WRONG WITH YOU!? YOU CREATED AN UNBEATABLE ENEMY. HOW THE F**K ARE YOU GONNA TAKE HIM ON?

CG: I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW YOU COULD F**K THIS UP SO BADLY. ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS TO NOT BE AN IDIOT.

CG: YOU DOOMED YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS IN THIS TIMELINE. I’M NOT SURE HOW THIS ENTIRE SITUATION CAN GET ANY WORSE!

CG: YOU PROBABLY DON’T UNDERSTAND A THING I’M SAYING. YOUR INCOMPETENT MIND IS STRUGGLING TO CATCH UP WITH WHAT I’M TRYING TO EXPLAIN TO YOU.

CG: YOU PROBABLY THINK YOU’RE SMART, BUT YOU ARE REALLY F**KING NOT, YOU FAT SACK OF SHAME GLOBES.

John smiled sadly at this before frowning slightly in confusion. The ravenet didn’t think...this was how the conversation had gone in his previous life. Wasn’t Past-Karkat supposed to proclaim that he was the Heir’s god or something? With a slow shake of his head, John sighed softly before responding.

EB: hi karkat! :B

There’s a long pause...before Past-Karkat responds.

CG: ...

CG: HOW...

CG: HOW THE F**K DO YOU KNOW MY NAME?

John darted his gaze upwards and saw that he was almost at Beat Mesa. The ravenet then looked back at his iGlasses and smiled softly.

EB: i know your name...because you’re my friend, karkat. :)

CG: WHAT SH** ARE YOU SPEWING?

CG: OKAY, I SAID YOU WERE STUPID. I TAKE THAT BACK. YOU’RE F**KING INSANE. I DON’T UNDERSTAND YOU ANYMORE. WHY WOULD I BE A…”FRIEND” OF YOURS?

EB: aw, buddy, this is just your first conversation with me in your point of view.

EB: sorry, but you need to pester me later on throughout the timeline. you’ll understand later, karkat.

CG: WHAT.

CG: WHY SHOULD I LISTEN TO A N**K-WHIFFER LIKE YOU?

EB: you don’t have to. i’m merely suggesting it.

CG: UGH, WHAT-F**KING-EVER. LIKE I WOULD LISTEN TO A B***E-LICKER LIKE YOU. I WOULD NEVER LISTEN TO A SH**-SPEWING B*****D LIKE YOU.

EB: and i’m sorry.

CG: ...

CG: FOR F**KING WHAT? FOR BEING AN IDIOT?

John laughed softly at this, the insult stinging a little less now.

EB: well that and...

EB: ...

EB: i dunno. i’m really sorry.

CG: YOU’RE SORRY WITHOUT KNOWING WHAT ELSE YOU’RE SORRY FOR?

EB: you just seem so...

EB: ...

John furrowed his eyebrows slightly.

EB: you just seem really upset about something else.

EB: whatever it is--i’m sorry.

Past-Karkat doesn’t respond for the longest time once again. Finally, when John’s feet land on the surface of Beat Mesa, Past-Karkat responds.

CG: BYE EGBERT.

-- carcinoGeneticist [ CG ] ceased trolling ectoBiologist [ EB ] at 2:27 --

-- carcinoGeneticist [ CG ] blocked ectoBiologist [ EB ] --

John blinked his eyes rapidly in surprise. This ‘first’ conversation with Karkat was much shorter. And--wait. Did Karkat say John’s last name? But the troll shouldn’t be aware of what his name is. Well, in John’s previous life, Past-Karkat didn’t really care about John’s name. But why would Past-Karkat in this timeline say it?

John was brought out of his musings when his iGlasses chimed again. The ravenet lifted an eyebrow in mild surprise and opened up a new chat box--...it was Karkat again? Ah, wait. This Karkat was trolling his other chumhandle.

-- carcinoGeneticist [ CG ] began trolling windybreathHeir [ WH ] at 2:28 --

CG: HI JOHN.

John felt a knot in his chest unravel slightly as he then smiled a little easier at the gray words on his iGlasses.

WH: hiya, karkat.

CG: F**K. MY PAST SELF TROLLED YOU JUST NOW, DIDN’T HE? F**KING GOG D**N IT. I’M SORRY FOR BEING SUCH AN A** BACK THEN. IGNORE THE SH** HE JUST SAID.

WH: haha, don’t worry karkat. i’m fine. :B

John then pulled out the captchalogue card containing Echidna’s quills. The ravenet flicked his wrist and the giant quills popped out of the card and onto the surface of Beat Mesa with a jarring clang. With a soft intake of breath, John then stored the captchalogue card away for future use before lifting his hands up.

With a soft sigh, Breath circled around John as he lifted the Quills of Echidna up. The ravenet noted the small crack in the black disk, thanks to one Bro Strider. With a huff, John moved his hands around to secure the quills in the massive machine above the disc.

Ping!

CG: JOHN. DON’T BE SO NICE. IT WASN’T

CG: ...

CG: I HAD NO F**KING RIGHT TO TELL YOU THOSE THINGS.

WH: it’s fine. really. :B

WH: c’mon. let’s talk about something else instead.

WH: oh yeah! tell me about the mission i’m gonna do with the sprite version of dave! :)

CG: F**KING CHANGING THE TOPIC I SEE BUT WHATEVER I GUESS.

CG: ALRIGHT, SO HERE’S HOW THE MISSION IS GONNA GO DOWN. LATER ON, YOU’RE GONNA USE YOUR RETCON POWERS TO TRAVEL INTO THE PAST IN ALTERNIA WITH SPRITE-DAVE.

John hums thoughtfully at this while the quills fit together into the slot in the machine. With a clank of metal on metal, the large, white needles are put in place. Waving his hands once more, John turns on the switch to initiate the Scratch with his Breath.

CG: AT ALTERNIA, IN THE PAST, YOU TOLD ME THAT YOU WANTED TO POSSIBLY...MAKE ALLIES WITH THE TROLL ANCESTORS.

CG: YOUR IDEAS ALWAYS NEVER CEASE TO BAFFLE THE F**K OUT OF ME.

CG: THEY’RE ALL COMPLETELY RECKLESS AND RIDICULOUS, BUT THEY ALL INCREDIBLY MAKE SENSE. BUT YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL AND WATCH YOUR A**. ALTERNIA ISN’T A PLACE THAT LET’S NICE PEOPLE LIKE YOU GO AROUND FROLICKING IN THE NIGHT, JOHN.

CG: THEY’LL F**KING SNAP YOUR NECK THE MOMENT YOU BARE IT TO THEM, SO ALWAYS BE ON GUARD, ALRIGHT? I WON’T BE THERE TO WATCH YOUR DERPY A**. JUST DON’T DO ANYTHING TOO DANGEROUS AND STUPID.

WH: hehe, sounds like fun. so i’m gonna travel back into the past and save the ancestors from their deaths?

CG: THAT PRETTY MUCH SUMS IT UP, JOHN. ALSO...YOU MIGHT HAVE OTHER STUFF TO DO ON ALTERNIA. I’LL EXPLAIN LATER.

WH: alright.

WH: oh! and before you go, i need you to ask sollux if he can help a friend of mine in building a robot body for an ar. the ar is named hal and he’s in the post-scratch world. :B

WH: and i probably won’t be able to talk to you for a while since i’ll be talking to post-scratch dave. i think...i’ll try and see if i can save the post-scratch versions of me, rose, dave, and jade. maybe i can make them reach god tier? i dunno.

WH: anyways, please tell sollux about the robotics thing.

CG: SURE. I’LL TELL SOLLUX ABOUT IT.

CG: AND BEFORE I LEAVE, I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT YOU’RE AN AMAZING PERSON.

John blinked in surprise at the gray words. Karkat’s words were rather sudden...but it warmed the Heirs heart to see them.

WH: aw karkat. you’re an amazing person too! :D

CG: WHATEVER.

CG: I’LL SEE YOU LATER THEN. FACE-TO-FACE I HOPE.

John then blinked in rememberence.

WH: oh, oh! wait, i almost forgot! before you go...i have something to say about jack noir.

CG: WHAT ABOUT THE F**KFACE?

WH: he's acting...different.  please just tell the others to stay on guard if he ever shows up around them.

CG: "DIFFERENT"? "DIFFERENT" HOW?

WH: he...he's being......

WH: ...nice?

CG: WHAT.

WH: bluh, i'm not sure. but please tell the others to stay safe, okay?

CG: YEAH, YEAH.

CG: ALRIGHT.  ANYTHING ELSE?

WH: mmmm...

WH: nope!

CG: GOOD.  STAY SAFE.

WH: gotcha! welp, bye karkat! :B

CG: BYE JOHN.

-- carcinoGeneticist [ CG ] ceased trolling windybreathHeir [ WH ] at 2:35 --

John relaxed with a sigh. There was another loud clank before the machine began to lower the quill-needle onto the surface of Beat Mesa. With a few more clicks and hisses of steam, the machine began to carve out the Scratch.

...John then sat down, crossing his legs. The ravenet reached into his captchalogue deck and brought out his grubtop. Opening it, the screen booted up and glowed softly. Light reflected off of John’s glasses as he opened a window to connect with a certain Strider in the Post-Scratch world. Once everything was set up, John slouched slightly and stared at the screen that was waiting for him to say something.

...F**k. What was he gonna say? What if he does something to offend Post-Scratch Dave? John just wanted to pester the other to see how he could help--maybe save him from death at least if he couldn’t get the Post-Scratch Strider to God Tier level. Ah sh**, maybe he shouldn’t--...

...

...John took a deep breath, swallowing the lump in his throat as he opened up at chat box on his grubtop. The ravenet exhaled softly, getting rid of the tension in his shoulders again. John just had to at least try and save Post-Scratch Dave from his death.

With a determined nod, John moved his hands from his lap and onto the keyboard, fingers lightly resting on the keys. There was no turning back now. Whatever will happen now...he’ll hope things will work out. With slightly shaky hands, John began the conversation.

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] began pestering turntechGodhead [ TG ] at ??:?? --

WH: um...hello?

John didn’t have to wait long for a response. The warm air of LOHAC brushed the Heir’s cheeks as he waited for a single moment of bated breath. The sound of the Scratch being made--metal on metal, or electricity snapping violently--seemed to be like white noise to the ravenet. John was nervous…

...But Hal had told John to be himself…

He can at least try and do that.

Rose-red text responded to his blue words.

Ping!

TG: who are you and how the f**k did you get this chumhandle

Chapter Text

==> Reader: Be John.

==> John: Talk to Post-Scratch Dave.

WH: i’m a friend.

TG: ...

TG: im gonna need a lot more info than that bud

WH: it’ll be a long story i'm afraid, so it’ll have to wait.

TG: wtf

TG: then give me one good reason why i shouldnt block you right now

You wince. This Dave...sounded more cold and sharp. You gaze at the rose-red words for another moment. You chew your bottom lip contemplatively before sighing softly. Here you go. You’re gonna take his leap of faith for this conversation. You have to trust Dave--even though he was a different one.

==> John: Take a leap of faith.

You sigh again, rolling your shoulders as you shift slightly in your seated position. You keep your gaze on the screen before you. Your fingers shake for a moment before they press against the keys of your grubtop.

WH: because i’m john egbert.

...

...No response.

Oh f**k. Sh**. You f**ked things up already. You eyebrows furrow and you chew on your bottom lip harder--ow. You wince and your teeth release your bottom lip. Pushing your tongue out slightly, you sigh in exasperation when you taste iron. Ugh, stupid buckteeth. Your lip hurts a little, but it’ll heal eventually--

Ping!

Your attention immediately snaps back to the screen of your laptop. You release a breath you didn’t know you were holding as you frantically read what Post-Scratch Dave typed in response.

TG: john

TG: you mean JOHNATHAN f**king EGBERT

TG: this better not be a god d**n scam by a f**king piece of sh** or i WILL hunt you down and MAIM you

You’re about to type something to try and explain, but Post-Scratch Dave continues to type.

TG: ill splatter your f**king blood all over your walls

TG: the john egbert i know

TG: my best sh**ty bro

TG: is dead

TG: killed by a god d**n fish b**ch in a swimsuit

TG: everyone else thought it was just some sort of accident by a random event but i know better

You pause in mild surprise. Post-Scratch you was killed by the Condesce? You thought he got crushed by the meteor Jane was on when she was a baby. D**n, did you do something to change how Post-Scratch you died? You shake your head and return your gaze to the rose-red text on the screen.

TG: f**k why am i even telling you this

TG: im blocking you

Your heart jumps to your throat. While it would be useless if Post-Scratch were to block you, you don’t want to make your relationship with the Strider shaky. You nearly lunge forward as you frantically type on your grubtop.

WH: no, no! please wait!

WH: it’s just

WH: argh, f**k.

WH: please, PLEASE don’t block me off.

...Surprisingly, D Strider didn’t block you off after a handful of seconds. It was as if the adult was waiting for you to prove something. You let out a shaky breath of relief, your head tilting back and shoulders slumping.

‘F**king he**, Dave...your Post-Scratch self is kinda scary…’ You say mentally with a shaky chuckle.

{Well...dude, I can’t really blame him. I’d be pretty pissed too if someone came out of the blue and proclaimed themself to be my long-dead, best bro.} Phantom-Dave muttered. {I’d hunt them down and maim them too.}

You shake your head, smiling exasperatedly.

Ping!

You jerk your head up at the sound and read the new rose-red words wearily, fingers hovering over your keyboard again.

TG: fine

TG: f**king fine

TG: then prove it

TG: tell me something that john would say

You blink in mild surprise, fingers hovering over the keyboard. What would Post-Scratch John say? What would he--?

TT: John, dude, you just need to take a deep breath and exhale. Let go of your worries and just believe in yourself. Although it sounds stupid and ridiculous, I’m just trying to reassure you that things will go fine.

TT: You’re best bros with an alternate version of Dirk’s bro. You’ll have this conversation in the bag.

...You think back to Hal’s words.

...What would you say?

You swallow. With a lopsided smile, you move your hands across the keyboard. The soft clicking of keys are nearly loud in your ears. When you finish typing, your finger hovers over the enter button. Your eyebrows furrow together before you sigh, pressing the button, sending your response so Post-Scratch Dave could see.

WH: do you know that every bottle of apple juice you open might actually be piss?

Phantom-Dave in your head barks out a laugh. Your heart warms a little and stops beating frantically in your chest out of worry. Hearing Dave laugh made you feel a little more confident. All you had to do was wait for Post-Scratch Dave’s response--

Ping!

TG: ...

TG: oh my holly f**k its YOU

TG: f**king he**

TG: only jay knows about that sh**ty pee joke

TG: and maybe ross and jade

TG: but is that really you jay

TG: john is it REALLY you?

You furrow your eyebrows in mild confusion at ‘Jay’. Was that...Post-Scratch John’s nickname? Perhaps it was. You sigh softly and respond once more, smiling lopsidedly.

WH: uh...kinda? :B

TG: and the f**king bucktooth emoticon OH MY F**K

TG: but wait what do you mean kinda

WH: it’s...very complicated. i am john egbert, but i’m not the one you know.

You hope this doesn’t cause Post-Scratch Dave to ignore you or something.

TG: ...

TG: explain now and quickly

WH: alright, but first, do you believe in alternate universes?

TG: not really but theres already aliens invading earth so lets just say i believe you

TG: continue

WH: okay. so i am john egbert, but i’m not the one you know. from the world i’m in, i started a game called SBURB along with my friends: dave strider, rose lalonde, and jade harley.

WH: currently, all four of us are teens. 13 years old and growing.

WH: anyways, after starting sburb, we brought upon the end of our planet, earth. the objective of sburb is actually to win against the big boss and create a new world.

WH: right now we’re in the world of the game sburb, travelling planets that go according to our personalities and...other complicated stuff.

WH: long story short, i’m a god of breath. you, or alternate dave, is a god of time. rose has future seeing powers, or the ability of light--she’s a god of light--and jade has space powers. we died to become gods.

You then pause, wincing as you reread your words. You sound like a lunatic all over again. However, to your surprise, Post Scratch Dave did not block him; Alpha-Dave responded instead.

TG: that is one he** of a story

TG: but what does this have to do with me in the end

TG: is this about the fish b**ch

Post-Scratch Dave was...surprisingly accepting of this? Why wasn’t he asking--? You shake your head and type a question instead of mulling about the fact in your head.

WH: um...aren’t you...suspicious?

TG: oh

TG: well heres the thing

TG: im aware of the game sburb and how it works

TG: it f**ks up the planet you live on but the reward of completing the game allows you to create a new world and sh**

TG: ross or rose told me about a scratch thing before but ive kinda forgotten about that detail until now

TG: so youre an alternate john huh

You scratch your head nervously at this and glance away from your grubtop for a moment. The Scratch was halfway through its completion, the needle now scratching the surface of the center of the disk. With a sigh, you turn your gaze back to your grubtop.

WH: yeah. i’m john. john egbert.

TG: hmmm

A long stretch of silence follows that vague response. You tap a finger nervously on your thigh as you shift slightly in your seated position. Should you respond--?

Ping!

TG: i see

TG: well then

TG: im dietrich strider but you can just call me d kiddo

You blink in mild surprise. Post-Scratch Da--D--was introducing himself to you? Did that mean...the other was opening up to you? Your heart skips with joy…...and you have no idea what else to say really. Your main goal was to make friends with D and his other friends. Maybe talk a bit more on how you’ll travel with your zappy powers to get them.

But all of your speech is kinda flushed down the drain. Like you were mentally preparing yourself before to know what to say to D. You had thought it would be hard to convince Post-Scratch Dave in believing you. Oh, Hal would be so smug and say, ‘I told you so’.

WH: oh...uh...

TG: haha youre totally floundering around arent you

You puff your cheeks out at this, indignant. You hear your friends laugh in your head. You respond back with a glower on your face.

WH: well i can’t help it! you striders all accept things so easily all of a sudden! >:B

WH: i get thrown off the handle and i end up not knowing what to say.

TG: haha i bet youre puffing up like a kitten right now

TG: adorkable

You stare at your screen with disbelief. You then scowl at the red words. Was D--!? Oh this smug b*****d.

WH: argh, shut up! stop making fun of me!

TG: haha okay okay

TG: my fault

TG: its just

TG: jegus you really remind me of jay

TG: ...

TG: d**n

TG: sorry give me a moment

The joy in the conversation seems to dampen. You furrow your eyebrows with concern, but you wait, fingers hovering over your keyboard. Three minutes tick buy slowly before D finally responds.

TG: k im back

You immediately move forward to type something back.

WH: sorry. i must’ve brought up some...memories.

TG: yeah but they were good ones

TG: things just seem less interesting without the little sh**

You bite your lip, considering, eyes darting along the red words for a moment before sighing softly. You close your eyes and focus. Beneath the darkness of your eyelids, you see a light in the distance...before images flash across your eyes. You can see what would happen just a fews minutes after what you’re doing, but you want to look further past these images.

The heat builds in your eyes, but you ignore this. You search for moments where you’ll hopefully come face-to-face with your Post-Scratch friends. You try and see if you can--

{John! John!} Phantom-Rose suddenly calls out. {Your eyes--sh**...! You can’t overuse my Light powers--!}

‘Rose, it’s alright.’ You try to soothe, gritting your teeth. ‘I’m almost--’

Your eyes are throbbing with pain but you see him--a scene in the future. You see yourself finding Post-Scratch John--Jay--in some sort of forest. He has baby Jane with him. Your eyes try to take in every bit of the scene before you--you’re placing Baby-Jane gently on the side and taking Jay’s hand.

Blue is starting to surround you and Jay--an older-looking Dave, D, dashes into the scene, shades off and red eyes filled with despair. D’s dressed in a white undershirt, black slacks, and a loosened, red tie. His posture is tense and he’s holding a katana in his hand--the rest of the details start to go fuzzy, but one thing stood out the most to you.

The look in D’s eyes is like a punch to your gut. Then the blue light consumes the area. It’s apparent that D doesn’t get to see much before you zap away with Jay’s hand still in your own.

More images blur together for a moment before a scene comes to you, sharp and clear. You’re placing Jay onto a Quest Bed of Breath. There’s a bright flash of blue agai--

“JOHN!”

You snap your eyes open--and your vision is filled with red. With a hiss of breath, you wince as you lift your hands to your eyes, pushing your glasses up. You gently brush your fingers over your eyes--and they sting harshly in retaliation. You feel something on your fingers and cringe, recognizing the sticky, warm feeling on your hands; it was definitely blood by the iron scent reaching your nose.

Ugh, f**k…! Maybe you should’ve listened to Rose, but you got what you wanted to know. With this information, you can tell D for sure that everything will be alright! You can cheer him u--wait, who had shouted at you--?

You hear a roar behind you as you continue to sit Beat Mesa. Your back was facing where the sea of lava should be. D**n, you forgot about the Lich Queen and her underlings--that towering beast with wings and her underlings in your previous life were slow, but their blows were nothing to joke about. With another hiss of pain, you stagger to your feet, reaching into your Strife Deck.

You feel the familiar weight of your Warhammer of Zillyhoo in your hands as you turn around carefully. Sticky warmth slides down your cheeks from your eyes as Breath swirls around you protectively. There’s another roar and you sense that the Lich Queen and her basilisks, ogres, and giclopses are much closer now.

You prepare to fly off of Beat Mesa. You can’t have these beasts wreak the large disk when it’s almost done completing the Scratch. You heft your hammer and try to squint through the haze of red over your eyes…...f**k. You still can’t see a thin--

“Duck, kid!” A voice barks.

That’s Bro’s voice.

You quickly do as you're told and press yourself flat against Beat Mesa below you. You feel a rush of wind and heat above you and a screech of pain. With a grunt, you push yourself up, using the hilt of your hammer as support when the blast of hot air is gone. You’re currently on your knees as you lean against your hammer.

“Broderick, ol’ chap!” That was Jacob’s voice followed by a cocking of a shotgun. “I’ll take care of the meddling beasts while you go check up on Johnny!”

“Alright! Stay safe, ya’ b*****d.” Bro tosses back, the insult having no bite. You hear the tapping of feet behind you; Bro must be there.

“You too, you mangy w**ker!” Jacob says back cheerily.

You hear Bro scoff behind you before the sound of footsteps head towards you. You wince as your eyes continue to sting.

“Jacob’s such a little sh**...” Bro mutters under his breath as he then stops walking forward, standing at your side now. “...Hey, ki--holy sh**! John, what the he**!?

You hear a thump. You think Bro is in front of you now--maybe that thumping noise was his knees hitting the surface of Beat Mesa? You smile shakily in the general direction of Bro’s voice, laughing nervously. You use your Breath to get a better hold of your bearings; yeah, Bro’s in front of you.

“Haha, hey Bro…?”

You feel your glasses get removed from your face. Pressure is gently brushed underneath your eyes, slightly wiping the blood away--are those Bro’s thumbs? Bro’s hands carefully cradle your face as he gently moves it this way and that, probably looking at your eyes.

“Sh**, kid…! What the f**king he** did you do this time?” Bro grits out lowly. “I take my eyes off of you for a f**king moment and this f**king happe--”

“I’m fine, really!” You let out a choked laugh as your friends are hovering in the back of your mind worriedly. “I just pushed too hard with my Light powers. M’fine, Bro.”

“Shut up, ya’ li’l sh**. Can ya’ open yer’ eyes fer’ me?”

Oops. There goes the Texan accent. Bro sounds super pissed. You do as you're told though and the pain is a little bearable this time. Everything is blurry...but you think you can make the outline of Bro’s face in front of you. A hand moves from your left cheek and the black blob on Bro’s face is moved upwards--oh, those are his shades.

Then the hand returns so both are grasping your face again. Bro is cursing under his breath as he moves a thumb to tug the skin around the bottom of your right eye down slightly.

“Sh**. Your pupils are blurred out a bit--they don’t look black anymore, kid.” He continues to mumble as he moves your head to look to the right, removing his thumb. “The red is receding. Blood’s starting crust up a bit--gonna have to get a wet towel to clean that sh** up.”

Bro sighs exasperatedly, releasing your face. He pats your shoulder roughly--you think you can see a scowl on his face, which is understandable; you’re being troublesome again, haha.

“Close your eyes for now, kid.” You obey and--ah, that feels a bit better. “I have bandages on me but I’ll see if Jake or those crocodiles have some things that can clean you up and help ease the pain. I don’t have any magic that’ll heal ya’, so you’re stuck like this for now. But do you think you can manage on your own for a bit while I help Jake get rid of the f**king beasts out there? I’ll be back soon.”

You smile as brightly as possible, ignoring how a drop of blood rolls down your cheek and off your chin. You give Bro a thumbs up and he quickly ruffles your hair, a scoff emitted from his lips.

“Stubborn li’l b*****d, aren’t ya’?” You hear movement and a small rush of air--Bro must be floating now. “I’m counting on you other kiddos too to watch over this idiot.”

You incline your head in confusion at this. There’s a rush of wind again, signaling that Bro was gone now. But who was Bro talking to befo--

{John, you f**king idiot.} Dave growls in his head. Rose is trying to murmur words of comfort when your eyes throb sharply for a moment.

Oh. Bro was talking to your ghost friends. You laugh sheepishly as you place your hands down on Beat Mesa, feeling the vibrations of the Scratch being made onto the disk. You move your hands around for a moment before they bump into a familiar object; you found your grubtop.

{John, seriously!?} Jade huffed, understanding what you were about to do. {Can’t you take care of yourself for once?}

You laugh, but your voice softens when your hear the slight tremor in Jade’s tone. Your fingers find the keys on your grubtop and you sigh softly.

‘...I love you guys, so I always put you guys first.’ You smile a bit. ‘Now help me read?’

{......Little sh**.} Dave murmurs. {But yeah, we’ll be your eyes, doofus.}

==> John: Be the Reader.

==> Reader: See what happens next.

Phantom-Rose and Jade watch the fight that’s happening near Beat Mesa. Bro and Jacob are holding their own quite well. No help will be needed for the two adults as they shoot and slice through dozens and dozens of armies of beasts.

Dave, on the other hand, is the one that tells John each text from D. While Jade and Rose keep watch, Dave stayed by John’s side, reading the conversation for the blinded Heir. With the help of the Knight of Time, John responded to D’s mass of text.

TG: kid

TG: you still there

TG: hey

TG: i didnt scare you off did i

TG: kiddo

TG: dude

WH: heya.! i!m bavk now,

TG: woah

TG: whats up with your typing

John cringed slightly when Dave had read the latest text to him. While John should feel familiar with typing on a keyboard blindfolded, Alternian keyboards are something he has yet to get used to. Oh well, practice makes perfect for now.

WH: hhajahaha, sorri anfew probllems came up,,

WH: cann!t see tuu wello

D responded immediately.

TG: what the sh**

TG: are you alright

WH: fune i!m fine!.

WH: anuways, i wan!t tu tell yoi thet i cen helpo you brong yur jon back,

TG: you

TG: ...

TG: you can bring jay back?

John smiled sadly at this. The way Dave had said this in the Heir’s mind--he too could understand the raw hope and disbelief in D’s voice.

WH: yed

WH: i ,ean yes

WH: d**n ot

TG: its okay little dude

TG: i pretty much get what youre telling me

TG: but

TG: how are you gonna do it

WH: yoi knoe whst qusst bedss are riggt.?

TG: quest beds

TG: yeah ive heard of them

TG: so thats how youre bringing jay back

TG: d**n

WH: i!m konda planninh tu make yoi a god too ande evryine elze too,! :b

TG: woah seriously

TG: how do you know thatll happen

TG: you some kind of time traveler

WH: uhhh.,,

WH: yed actuakky i a,m a timrtrabler,,!

There’s a stretch of silence before D responds.

Ping!

TG: oh

TG: well d**n

John laughed nervously at this before shivering as a drop of cooling blood rolled down his cheek. He wiped it away quickly, grimacing when he felt the mess smudge on his cheek. With an exasperated sigh, John started typing again.

WH: i jnow thiz is a lit to takke innbut pleaze belieevr me,

WH: i juzt want mu frennds to be seafe

Another stretch of silence...and then another response.

Ping!

TG: ...

TG: i see

TG: youll have to remind me to tell you to explain everything about you later on

TG: anyways

TG: since this is your goal to protect your bada** gang is there anything i can do

TG: i mean im not gonna let you do all of the work

TG: i like saving my friends too and keeping them safe

John bit his lower lip at this, worried. He kinda wanted D to stay low...however…

If John managed to find a Quest Bed for Jay, then D should be able to find a Quest Bed too. Everyone should be able to. With a harsh swallow, John grimaced as he moved his fingers again.

WH: unnmm all yoi have tu do iz continie whst yoir doinh,,

WH: i won!t sugar cost thus but yoer gonne die ageinst the fish laddy..,.

TG: ...

WH: but when ut cumes dowen to that i wantu yoi to thunk abiut thiz word reealuy hardd

John hummed thoughtfully for a moment. What should the word be? D had to think of this word really hard in order for John to zap over to him. Hopefully the Heir will arrive in time too. So what should the word be…?

{Casa.} Dave suddenly said. {Make the word casa.}

John blinked in idle surprise before smiling softly. The ravenet chuckled softly before carefully trying his best to type in the word.

WH: casa

WH: i didn!t mezz up typinh thet surpruzingly

WH: but yeeah

WH: rememmnber the worde

WH: casa

Another stretch of silence appears. John sighed as he waited once again for D to respond. The Strider must be thinking hard about this--which the Heir doesn’t blame the other for. Like, a person online suddenly comes in, proclaiming that they’re a teen, alternate version of his long dead friend? And the stranger was a time traveler? It was crazy! John hoped that D would be underst--

Ping!

TG: heh

A...chuckle? John hoped that was a good response.

WH: ,,.?

TG: spanish for home huh

TG: thats real sweet kid

John huffed at this, scratching his cheek nervously before cringing when some of the crusted blood came off. Ugh, he really wants to wash his face up now. He’ll have to wait after this conversation.

TG: ill make sure to remember it after i did my best kicking fish a**

TG: but what will thinking about that word do

WH: it!ll helpo me pinpount yoir locatiiobn,

TG: what

TG: are you suddenly gonna warp there or something

WH: yepo

TG: ...

TG: youre just full of surprises kid

John barked out a laugh when Dave relayed this response to him. He was full of surprises indeed.

WH: awe tanks mann

John then paused for a moment, mulling over his thoughts. Did he have anything else to say…? Nah. He was good. For now that is. He’ll have to plan a bit more when picking the Post-Scratch Guardians. Anyways, better wrap this up then with D.

WH: and i guez that weraps that up

WH: i mighht pesterr yoi anuther time,,.,,.

TG: cool beans kid

TG: and you better go and fix up your eyes man

TG: you make me worry like a granny after her reckless grandson

TG: just like with jay

TG: so go get your f**ked up eyes healed or whatever it needs and all that sh**

WH: got iit

WH: see yoi laterr.! :B

TG: stay safe kid

WH: yoi too d.!! :BB

-- windybreathHeir [ WH ] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [ TG ] at ??:?? --

John sighed out a breath of relief, hands falling into his lap. After another deep inhale and exhale...John smiled tiredly, moving his hands on top of the grubtop before shutting it, listening to it power down with a low hum.

“D wasn’t a stranger after all.” John murmured to the air.

Phantom-Dave huffed and gave John a nudge of warmth in the back of the Heir’s head, settling down within the ravenet’s mind.

{You did awesome, bro. Just like Hal said--you had the conversation in the bag.} Dave drawled softly.

John smiled...before flopping backwards, laughing breathlessly as he felt the warmth around him, simply relaxing after what started off as a suspenseful conversation to a calm and familiar one. The ravenet continued to keep his eyes shut as he started to doze of. Before he fell asleep though, he heard hushed voices.

“Oh bollocks…! What happened to his eyes?” One voice whispered harshly.

“Kid pushed himself too hard.” Another voice drawled back. “Looks like he’s falling asleep too. D**n kid needs the rest.”

John felt a hand gently go through his hair and he felt himself be pulled a bit more into the soothing darkness of sleep. But wait! He couldn’t sleep just yet! He had so much things to do--!

“Just sleep, kiddo. Ya’ deserve the rest.” The second voice murmured. “Leave everything to Jacob and me.”

Oh. It was Bro. With that, John relaxed and slowly fell into the embrace of slumber, the pain in his eyes a dull ache now. The gentle hand in his hair continued with its soothing motions. His muscles unwinded and his head lolled slightly to the side, relaxing completely.

Meanwhile, Bro was shaking his head with exasperation, looking at the sleeping form of John. The God d**n kid looked so weak now. Rusty-red tear tracks stained his cheeks, and his eyes had purple bruises below them from lack of sleep. The Egbert-kid was wearing bandages on his left arm from overusing his Space powers. He also has bandages wrapped around his left shoulder, patching up an injury Bro wasn’t aware of. And now, the sh**ty kid was bleeding from his eyes.

This kid always seems to get injuries when nobody’s looking.

Bro sighed tiredly and exasperatedly and turned his head to look at Jacob, who was shifting from foot to foot. Forest-green eyes were gazing at John’s limp form with worry before Bro waved a hand over at the other, catching the adventurer’s attention. Bro bundled up John’s long hood into a mini-pillow, stuffing it beneath the Heir’s head.

“Jacob,” Bro murmured, keeping his gaze on John for now. “Ya’ got some towels and warm water? We should clean up Egderp eyes while we can.”

Jacob merely mumbled a ‘yes’ before quickly rummaging through his captchalogue deck. While the Rogue of Hope did this, Bro sighed again as he looked up at the cloudy sky above.

“You are one of a kind, ya sh**ty kid.”

==> Reader: See what Davesprite is doing now.

Davesprite lifted his head up to the twilight sky above him, an uncomfortable feeling stirring in his gut. It was the kind of feeling that one of your best pals were hurt but they weren’t in danger. The sprite drifted his gaze across the sky where stars barely dotted the dark-blue expanse. His wings ruffled and he frowned slightly.

“Dave?” The sprite blinked before turning his head to look into bright, green eyes. “You alright? You look...unsettled.”

Davesprite huffed before reaching over to ruffle raven locks--she’s not his Jade, but he still cares for her--throwing a smirk at the other when she whined in protest.

I’m fine, Jade. It’s just a bit chilly here.” Davesprite drawled.

Jade cocked her head at this while she held a blue frog with bright, golden eyes. Jade hummed thoughtfully as she adjusted her grip on the amphibian in her hands when it tried to wriggle away.

“You can go over by the Forge then. It’s really toasty over there, Dave!” She said cheerily.

Davesprite let a fond smile dart across his face before he waved a taloned hand in the air, yawning softly, wings puffing up behind himself for a moment.

Nah.” Another yawn. “I’m good.

Jade giggled softly, placing the blue frog she had in her hands down, herding it away deeper into the island so it doesn’t fall into the water surrounding the land.

“Dave, are you getting sleepy? Maybe it’s your crow side trying to hibernate or something!”

Davesprite rolled his eyes behind his shades, fighting back another yawn. The sprite then looked over to where Dave was--well, not the main Dave. Real-Dave was on his Derse planet. This Dave was just here to help Jade with the frogs. The Dave right here was currently making the frogs hop towards the center of the island so they wouldn’t fall into the water.

It’s been pretty peaceful on the island. No big disturbances ever since Davesprite and Bal arrived. There had only been a few imps and ogres; Davesprite and Dave took care of them while Jade continued to unfreeze the frogs with Balthazar at her side. The salamander patriarch was quite overjoyed to see the frogs free.

Davesprite had also given Jade Ahab’s Crosshairs, the purple rifle now stored safely away in her Strife Deck. So now, the three of them are just peacefully unfreezing the last of the frogs and beginning breeding duties.

When the battles had been over, Davesprite got to tell Jade and Dave his story; Balthazar gave a few comments when he needed to. Both humans were unhappy to hear that John had died in the sprite’s timeline; it was like a punch to the gut to hear the news. All in all, the two understood now why Davesprite was back--the orange sprite hasn’t told them the truth about John yet though. Davesprite felt that it wasn’t his right to just blurt to Jade and Dave that John was a time traveler--the sprite had to at least get permission from the Heir himself.

Anyways...this then leads them to the present, unfreezing and breeding frogs.

Having been lost in his thoughts for a moment, Davesprite didn’t know that his gaze was lingering on Dave. As if sensing Davesprite’s gaze, Dave looked up, the teen’s face devoid of emotion except for a raised, curious eyebrow.

“Sup?” Dave said, dusting his black jeans off, broken record shirt shifting slightly when a breeze came by.

Davesprite snapped out of his daze and shrugged in response, lowering his gaze to the ground below him. He felt his tail brush through cool, green grass, only a few patches of snow still existing on the island.

Nothin’. Just thinking.” Davesprite murmured in response before looking up at the sky again, eyebrows furrowing slightly. He then directed his next question to Jade. “Jade, where’s Bec? He needs to be prototyped again, right?

Right when Davesprite had mentioned the dog-sprite, there was a crackle of electricity, and the First Guardian was there, hovering beside Orange-Dave. Davesprite turned to look at the other sprite.

Oh. There you are.

Bec made a rumbling noise, not quite able to make a happy bark since he still had to adjust to the shift of becoming a sprite--his powers were still a bit out of whack. And, before anyone could say anything, the dog the glowed a bright green. Davesprite squinted his eyes at this, and then--

Zap!

--Bec warped something out into the open.

Davesprite blinked...and stared, mouth parted just slightly in surprise. There, on the ground, was a stuffed Dream-Jade. Davesprite shut his mouth as he stared intently at Dream-Jade while Jade and Dave made their own reactions. Bal nervously clicked his claws together, Breath bubbles popping at his lips.

“...J-Jade, young lass...is that…?” The salamander stuttered out hesitantly as he ceased his chatting with the frogs beside him.

“Holy sh**, Jade. What the he**?” Dave muttered, nudging a hopping frog away with his shoe as he lowered his shades slightly to stare at the stuffed body of his friend.

Jade herself was flitting around her stuffed-self nervously, wringing her hands together. Her green eyes darted over the familiar Prospit pajamas and the very familiar face in front of her. She took a shuddering breath, noting the red stain on the front of the yellow dress.

“...This must’ve been in Pa’s study room. I could never go into that room…” Jade murmured.

Davesprite was staring at Dream Jade for a long moment before looking up at Bec. Davesprite’s wings unfurled and stretched for a moment before relaxing as he continued to gaze at Bec. Bec himeslef inclined his head at Davesprite in return, snuffling softly. Orange-Dave raised an eyebrow, a calculating look crossing his face before he nodded to himself slowly.

Bec want’s to prototype himself with your Dream-self, Jade.

Jade made a noise of surprise and turned to look at Davesprite.

“What? Really?” Jade frowned slightly at this, looking up at Bec. “Bec…?”

Bec barked, softly this time since he’s regained some control over his powers. Davesprite inclined his head before looking over at Jade, crossing his arms.

If you don’t want Bec to--

“Um, no...I think...this might be for the best. If I can merge my Dream-self with Bec, maybe I can fight Jack Noir this way.” Jade murmured, walking forward to place a hand on her Dream-self’s shoulder, taking in the pale complection of the other before looking up at Davesprite. “I--dream me--can help this way.”

Jade looked up at Davesprite determinedly, her blue skirt swaying in the cool breeze that blew by. She drew the red coat around herself closer, smiling wryly at the orange sprite.

“I haven’t been helping much in the fight. And--...” Jade swallowed before looking over at Bec, eyes a little watery. “...Bec…? Do you really, really want to do this?”

Bec huffed softly in response before bobbing his head up and down, his snake-like tail curling in the air a bit.

He wants to do this.

Jade took in a deep breath at this, looking at Bec with a wavering smile. She hovered her hands a distance away from his face, giving her dog an air-pat. Jade inhaled sharply and then grinned brightly and strongly at Bec, a determined glint in her eyes.

“We’ll take Jack on together, right?” She smiled softly at the First Guardian. “I love you.”

Bec shut his eyes and his chest rumbled lowly. He then snapped his eyes open and went over to Dream-Jade, circling the stuffed body before touching it with his nose. The small bit of contact was all he needed. There was a flash of green light.

...The light slowly died out and everyone watched as dog-eared Jade emerged from the bright, green glow. Her eyes slowly slid open...and focused behind her rounded glasses. She blinked...before directing her gaze instantly towards Davesprite.

...Dave…?

Davesprite blinked, mildly surprised, wings ruffling behind his back. Those eyes...are not exactly the eyes of the current Jade. Had it worked? The orange sprite carefully held a hand out to Jadesprite, expression filled with caution. Davesprite continued to gaze at the other, hand still offered to the green sprite.

...Do you remember, Jade? LOFAF and John?

Jadesprite blinked her eyes rapidly...before widening them. And then, with a bright laugh, Jade lunged forward, hugging Davesprite tightly even though he squawked in protest.

DAAAAVE! Oh my gosh!” She cheered.

Jade and Dave watched the ongoings with slight surprise; Balthazar cocked his head slightly in confusion, tail flicking behind him. Jadesprite yipped happily as she spun around with Davesprite in her arms. Davesprite was also over-the-moon happy that the Jade he knew had successfully merged with Dream Jade--but he needed Jadesprite to calm down.

Jade, seriously, calm down--caw, ah sh**, ignore that noise.” Davesprite grumbled, grasping Jadesprite’s arms so she wouldn’t strangle him. “Jade, crazy lady, calm the f**k down.

Jadesprite giggled softly, her eyes curved upwards as she smiled brightly. She curiously played with the feathers around Davesprite’s neck, and the orange sprite squawked in protest. Davesprite’s wings puffed up and he swatted Jadesprite’s hand away, huffing.

“Um...what’s happening?” Jade asked tentatively on the side, glancing between Davesprite and Jadesprite.

Davesprite sighed deeply, slinging an arm over Jadesprite’s shoulders.  He spread his wings out, enveloping his friend in some warmth as they both faced the human, past versions of themselves.  Davesprite looked at the two before him as he kept Jadesprite close.

So, uh, you remember how I’m a Dave that travelled back in time from like two to three years in the future, right?” Jade and Dave nodded, so Davesprite continued. “Alright. So while I was in the future, I was planning stuff with Jade, and there was this thing where she had the choice to merge with her past-self’s Dream body.

Davesprite flexed his wings out and relaxed while Jadesprite smiled anxiously at the two teens in front of her.  Her ears twitched a lot, her senses probably a bit overloaded with the new apendages.  Jadesprite took a deep breath, playing with her fingers nervously.

Um, we didn’t think it would actually work, but here I am!” Jadesprite waved awkwardly before she dipped her head down, ears drooping slightly. “I...it’s not right of me to come back like this an--

“No, no! Don’t apologize!” Jade said, waving her hands and smiling comfortingly at...uh, herself. “I...the future sounded really bad from what Davesprite told us. Plus, I’m sure you came back to help us too!”

Jadesprite smiled at this before her eyes shot open with shock and realization. She ducked out from under Davesprite’s arm and grabbed the orange sprite by his shoulders, looking at the other with wide, frantic eyes.

John! Is he alright!? Jack Noir didn’t get him, right? Oh my gosh, is he hurt--!?

Davesprite immediately lifted his hands up to place them on top of her hands, which were still on his shoulders. His shades slipped down his nose as his red-orange eyes now gazed into her bright green ones.

Jade. Breathe first.” Davesprite said carefully. When Jadesprite managed to reign in her breathing, Davesprite continued. “John’s alright now. Last I saw him, he was working on the Scratch--

There was a gasp from Jade and everyone turned their attention to the ravenette. Her hands were over her mouth, eyes wide with worry as her glasses glowed--oh, those were her crystal-ball glasses.

“John…!”

Jadesprite tensed at this and quickly darted towards Jade, her dog ears on her head twitching wildly.

What’s wrong?!” Jadesprite demanded, drifting in front of Jade’s face, green sparks crackling along her body--like she was revved up and ready ro teleport to John .

Jade lowered her hands from her mouth and looked over at Jadesprite, gaze worried, face a little pale.

“W-Well...John looks like he’s asleep now...and Mr. Strider and Pa are looking after him...b-but…” Jade took in a deep breath, gnawing on her bottom lip for a moment before speaking. “He...he has bandages wrapped around his eyes. I think he’s been injured there…!”

Davesprite’s wings stretched out immediately, making his form much more intimidating and menacing. Loose orange feather drifted in the breeze as he flapped his wings in agitation, floating up above the ground slightly.

What.” He nearly snarled out.

Hrrk--!”

Everyone then quickly turned their attention to the new noise. The noise sounded like someone just got choked off or someth--

...Oh f**king he**.

The choked off noise...had come from Dave. The Strider’s shades slipped off of his nose before falling to the ground with a soft thump, the impact softened by the grass. Red dribbled down and stained the blonde’s t-shirt, the fabric no longer white now. Dave made garbled, choked sounds--because there was a f**king sword stabbed right through his throat from behind.

Red eyes flickered up from the ground to look at the others. Dave sent a wry smirk at them...before the light vanished from his eyes and he fell forward; the blade in his throat was pulled out at the same time. Jade let out a choked sob while Jadesprite actually growled--the green sprite sounded like a real, wild beast. Balthazar hissed, teeth bared as bubbles of Breath already started to float around the area. Davesprite brought his sword out from his Strife Deck, orange wings flaring.

There was a low growl as black, doll-like feet walked around Dave’s unmoving body. White eyes were narrowed into slits as they darted to the three remaining people that were present. Jack Noir sneered at the group, flicking his blade to the side, causing blood to splatter against the grass.

Davesprite and Jadesprite quickly moved in front of Jade, wings expanded and sharp teeth bared respectively. Davesprite kept his eyes on Jack, but his words were directed to Jadesprite.

Watch your back and watch Other-you.” He muttered.

Jadesprite growled lowly, but she nodded in response.  Her shoulders were hunched slightly and Davesprite could see the Bec-side of her showing; the dog ready to pounce and attack.  Jadesprite darted her green eyes along Jack's form before sending a small smirk to Davesprite.

...Dave, we’ve been training with each other for two years. It’s not that long, but I’m sure we can do our best in kicking some serious a**.” Her white dog ears flickered on her head as she sent a small smile at her fellow sprite. “Oh, oh! Let’s do the Frost-Fire Formation, Dave!

Davesprite risked a glance at her and huffed out an amused chuckle before looking back at Jack, who was slowly approaching. Davesprite narrowed his eyes dangerously, before nodding.

Alright. Frost-Fire Formation it is.” Davesprite darted forward, a streak of orange light as he charged towards Jack. “Let’s go. Balthazar, you support with Jade.

Jadesprite smiled grimly, waving her arms up as her sprite tail swished below her. Green sparks crackled along her arms as she kept her gaze on Davesprite. Meanwhile, Jade pulled her rifle out of her Strife Deck, cocking it and taking the safety off, prepared to provide backup. Bal chirped before a mass of bubbles started to swarm the area, providing a slight barrier to protect Davesprite as the orange sprite moved in.

Jack Noir saw Davesprite approach and growled lowly, rushing forward to meet the orange sprite halfway. His obsidian blade reflected red light at certain angles, the weapon still drenched heavily with blood.

==> Reader: See what James and Roxanne are doing.

“Aw~Jamie, you gotta hold her! She’s so adorable!” Rox cooed as she held a Baby-Rose in her arms.

James smiled anxiously at this while he removed a Baby-Dirk--and technically Baby-Broderick--from one of the ecto-canisters--how in the world had that baby gotten into that darn, glass case in the first place!?--and held the blonde toddler in his arms with a huff. The Egbert patriarch looked down into golden-orange eyes sternly.

“...Reckless even as a baby, huh, Broderick?” James mumbled.

The blonde baby merely stared up at James and into his cobalt eyes. James huffed before walking back to the center of the gray room, his blue cape shifting as he moved. After setting Broderick down near Rox, James then noticed another baby Strider crawling on some of the ecto-equipment.

Oh stars above--Dave get off of that.” James quickly marched over to the rather adventurous baby.

Rox on the other hand was cradling Rose in the crook of her left arm and John in her right. She was watching amusedly as James gently pried Baby-Dave off of the machine. Rox then lowered her gaze to Baby-Rose, shifting her left arm a bit to bounce the happily gurgling baby.

“Mama loves you…” She murmured softly to her child, smiling warmly when Baby-Rose giggled.

“It’s soon time to send them off.” James said, causing Rox to look over at him. The Egbert patriarch now safely had Baby-Dave in his arms. “The Reckoning will begin in five minutes.”

Rox hummed at that, glancing downwards to see her baby-self playing with Baby-Jake, and Toddler-Jane was added in the mix. She pouted slightly in James’s direction.

“Aw...I wish we had more time. Even my baby-self is adorable!”

James chuckled fondly, setting Baby-Dirk down by his fellow, toddler Strider. The ravenet then straightened up and moved his index finger forward, smiling softly when Baby-John immediately latched on, tiny hands curling around James’s digit.

“I know, I know. All of these babies are hard to resist cooing over.” James gazed into the bright, blue eyes of his son before lifting his gaze up to look into Rox’s hot pink ones. “But we must send them in.”

Rox sighed, long and sad, before nodding. The two adults went to work in gathering all of the children up--the two Strider babies kept on sticking themselves to climbable objects. Such a troublesome pair of children.

~~

The clock for the Reckoning slowly ticked off its last numbers. Previously, before they parted ways, John had given James and Rox a few objects--fedora, a large book, a pony. He had merely told the pair that they were small things that gave each baby some character in the future.

Cal was not here...so it made the adults wonder how Little Cal came into Bro’s possession in the end--was Little Cal warped to Bro at some point in time when he was a kid? But this left Baby-Dirk’s arrival to be dangerous--he could be injured if there was nothing there to help him.

However, to Rox’s and James’s surprise, Liv Tyler decided to go with Baby-Dirk. The robot bunny cuddled with Baby-Dirk, making it their mission to protect the blonde baby; it made the two wonder if Broderick had the robot bunny too with him at one point in time.

Anyways, each toddler had their own thing to bring with them in the Reckoning. Rox straightened her back up after she set one last toddler down in place.

“Alright, Jamie.” Rox hummed. “All the babes are set and ready to go.”

James nodded and sighed as he gently moved his fingers through Baby-John’s hair, ruffling the raven locks, crouching in front of the toddler. The Knight of Breath was a little reluctant to part ways with his son even though he was the one who told Rox that it was time to send them into the Reckoning.

The Egbert patriarch smiled when John whined for a moment before curiously grasping onto the adult’s wrist. James’s smile then faltered slightly when he looked into those deep, blue eyes.

...Those eyes were filled with so much wonder. There were no ghosts. No shifting shadows. No scars to be bared. Baby-John’s were clear of burdens, and that hurt James more than he thought it would. James shut his eyes for a moment, breathing deeply--

“Da!”

James snapped his eyes open in surprise. Baby-John was looking at the adult with a wide grin. Was...was John saying--?

“Da! Dada!” The baby chirped again.

...James blinked his eyes rapidly in surprise before letting out a choked laugh. John was already calling him dad? The Egbert patriarch smiled sadly before leaning forward, gently bumping foreheads with the baby.

“...I love you too, son.” James murmured softly. “I’m so, so very proud of you.”

John gurgled out a happy laugh and James chuckled in return. He quickly moved back before pressing a gentle kiss to John’s forehead. The Egbert patriarch stood up and stepped back, causing John to let go of the adult’s wrist. Baby-John made a noise of confusion and James merely waved slightly.

The countdown was nearly finished.

5…

4…

3…

2…

1...

The platform the kids were on glowed a bright white. With a soft, popping noise, James and Rox watched as the eight children disappeared. James stared at the empty platform for a moment, wishing to have been able to hold and speak to Baby-John a while longer…

...But his son needed him right now, didn’t he? James and Rox were done with the ecto-babies, so they should start heading to LOHAC. As if sensing James’s thoughts, Rox took the Egbert patriarch’s left hand, smiling warmly at the other.

“Let’s get going, Jamie.”

James nodded in response, squeezing her hand back. Rox opened up a Void portal with a flick of her left hand. Without a further ado, Rox moved forward first, tugging James along as they both went through the Void portal.

Instantly, the temperature changed. The cool air of the lab was now replaced with heat of LOHAC. Rox glanced around carefully, the Mage of Void shutting the portal once James had also gotten through. The blonde cocked her head as she squinted into the distance before making a triumphant noise.

“Beat Mesa is just up ahead.” She formed another Portal in front of them. “Let’s go~!”

James chuckled fondly and allowed himself to be tugged along once more. Twilight-blue light danced across his vision for a moment again. Once through the portal, James blinked the light out of his eyes rapidly. The Knight was about to--

Rox inhaled sharply, breath stuttering in her chest.

James immediately tensed and followed her gaze--

...Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no, no! John?! James and Rox flew down towards Beat Mesa, where Bro and--wait, is that Jacob over there too!? The Knight and Mage landed on the large disk, briskly jogging forward to stand beside the three that were present.

Bro was sitting on the left of John’s head. He lifted his head up to look up at James, his shades pushed up into his hair at the moment. The Strider grimaced as he looked at the elder Egbert.

“Sorry, James. I should’ve been more careful.” Bro said gruffly. “His...blindness isn’t permanent.”

“I’m the one who should be sorry!” Jacob whisper-shouted, standing up from where he had been sitting on the right side of John’s head. “I was talking to Broderick and catching up on what’s going on. I was being a major distractio--”

James merely held a hand up, releasing his hold on Rox’s hand. Bro grimaced at this and quickly stood up as well, moving out of the way. James quickly took Bro’s place, kneeling down and looking at John’s face.

The teen’s eyes were currently wrapped up in white bandages. James eyes darted to a few bloody towels on the side, probably used to clean John’s face up. The Egbert patriarch sighed shakily before moving a hand forward to brush a strand of raven hair out of John’s face.

“...How did it happen?” James mumbled, finally sitting down on his bottom instead, crossing his legs.

Bro sighed, crossing his arms as he stood beside James.

“You already know how John has different Aspects besides his main one, Breath, right?” James nodded so Bro continued, rubbing his palm into his forehead. “Okay. So it looks like he pushed his Light Aspect too hard. He’s lucky that he didn’t go any further--I think he would’ve been permanently blind if he did that.”

Bro lowered his hand from his face, sighing once more, returning to crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“Since he’s a god, he should be able to heal from this faster than usual--even the lacerations on his left arm are gone at the moment; no scars.” James looked over at said arm and saw that the bandages were gone. Bro continued to give his report, grimacing slightly. “However, this doesn’t make him all sunshine and sh**ty rainbows the next day. This isn’t just cuts on skin--these are his d**n eyes, so it’ll take time for him to heal properly.”

James frowned at this, watching the gentle rise and fall of his son’s chest, feeling very relieved to see it moving. The ravenet sighed deeply, still keeping his gaze on John’s sleeping form.

“...Do you think you have an estimate of how long this may last?”

Bro scowled faintly, arms still crossed while his right index finger idly tapped his bicep.

“...At minimum, three months for a full recovery. At most, a year.” Bro muttered.

James drew in a sharp breath at this, eyebrows furrowing as he took in the white bandages around his son’s eyes. Rox’s expression also looked troubled before she finally lifted her gaze to look at Jacob, lifting a curious eyebrow at the other.

“Jakey...how did you end up here?” She asked, standing for now along with the Rogue and Thief while the Knight of Breath stayed seated by his son.

Jacob scratched the back of his head, an anxious smile given in return to the question.

“...Well...you know how I left you guys at Skaia, searching for Broderick on the other planets.” Rox nodded, so Jacob went on--he decided to leave out the moment with Dream Jade. “And so...when I went to LOHAC...I had a little bout with Jack Noir--well, it wasn’t much of a bout. Jack won easily--”

“You ran into Jack?” Rox murmured with surprise. “He killed you. But then how did you…?”

The Lalonde matriarch gestured to Jacob’s God Tier clothes. Jacob understood the silent question and frowned in return.

“Well…I heard it from Hope, the Aspect, and they told me...Jack was the one who placed me on my Quest Bed.”

James turned his gaze from John at that, lifting his eyebrows in surprise as he looked at at the Rogue of Hope.

“...He...Jack Noir was the one that got you to God Tier? After killing you?” James asked, sounding incredulous.

Jacob sighed deeply in response, running a hand through his hair.

“Yes, yes. I don’t really understand it myself! It’s all so strange…” He muttered, a contemplating frown on his face.

“...Dad…?” A slightly raspy voice murmured.

Everyone quickly turned their attention to the voice. James made a soft gasp of surprise and moved to get on his knees instead, grasping John’s left hand quickly.

“Yes. I’m here, John. I’m here.” James murmured quickly, rubbing his thumb over the back of the teen’s hand.

John’s head turned to the sound of James’s voice, head lolling slightly to the left. The Heir carefully squeezed the hand holding his back, smiling lopsidedly at James while his eyebrows furrowed.

“Sorry for worrying you, Dad.” John laughed sheepishly. “I was trying to look far into the future to reassure a friend of mine that everything would be alright.”

James blinked before shaking his head slowly, a small, sad laugh escaping his lips as he looked down at John with a fond smile.

“Ah. Of course you would only be injured if you were protecting or helping your friends.” James sighed deeply as he smoothed his free hand over his son’s forehead, checking the teen’s temperature. “I always admire that about you, son, but it gives me gray hairs when you do it.”

John grinned sheepishly before moving his free hand to push himself up. Jacob quickly bent down slightly on John’s right side, the side that James wasn’t occupying. The Rogue’s hand moved hesitantly behind the Heir’s back, carefully assisting the teen.

“Johnny, don’t you think you should rest more? You’ve only napped for about 45 minutes.” Jacob said worriedly.

John merely grinned, stretching his senses out with his Breath, taking note that Rox and Bro were on the side too. The Heir grunted as he finally sat up properly, furrowing his eyebrows over his bandages for a moment before glancing around carefully. He felt with his Breath, finding that the needle was almost done with completing the Scratch. John sighed softly and turned to look in Jacob’s general direction, smiling lopsidedly at the other.

“I’m fine. Thanks for worrying about me, Pop.” John shifted his head to look at the other.

John’s head throbbed for a bit, but Jacob and James were there to help ground the teen as he continued to sit. The Heir murmured a thanks to the two, squeezing his dad’s hand for a moment before letting go.

Ping!

John blinked and fumbled around for a moment, before bringing his normal laptop out. Placing the device on his lap, John brushed his fingers around, much more familiar with the device as he mentally talked to Ghost-Dave.

‘Dave? Who is it this time?’

{Hmm...oh. It’s sprite-me.} Dave drawled, his presence at John’s right shoulder.

“Son…? Is someone pestering you?” James asked as he fretted. “Do you need help to respond?”

Bro answered for John before the teen could say anything.

“Dave’s being his eyes.” Bro commented, eyes glowing a soft magenta beneath his shades. “And I bet John’s got the keys of his laptop memorized.”

James let a look of confusion cross his face for a moment before he realized that Bro was talking about Ghost-Dave. The Knight of Breath slowly nodded in understanding before furrowing his eyebrows, turning to look at John, still concerned for the teen.

“Are you sure--?”

A loud roar suddenly echoed out through the area. Bro tsked and brought his sword out of his Strife Deck quickly, and Jacob brought his shotgun out, standing up; the two were familiar with the sound, readying for battle. Rox whistled lowly in surprise, watching three Lich Queens slosh through the sea of lava. Masses of other beasts followed behind, screeching noisily. Void danced along Rox’s fingers in small circles.

“Those are some biiiig beasts!” She said cheerily. The Mage then looked over at James. “You stay with Johnny and make sure he doesn’t get hurt or push himself too hard. I’ll go with Jakey and Brozy.”

James nodded in understanding befor